When he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami in 1979, the Most Reverend Agustín Román became the first Cuban in 200 years to be appointed bishop in the United States.
Bishop Román came to South Florida after being expelled from Cuba by Fidel Castro's regime. He and 132 other Cuban priests, including Bishop Eduardo Boza Masvidal (deceased former auxiliary bishop in Venezuela) were aboard the Spanish ship "Covadonga" when it sailed from Havana on Sept. 17, 1961.
Bishop Román ministered in Chile for four years before coming to Miami in 1966, where he became identified, almost immediately, with the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. His exhortations to fellow exiles to donate "kilos prietos" (tarnished pennies -- what little they could afford in those early days) over a seven-year period raised enough to pay for the construction of the Shrine on Biscayne Bay. Dedicated to Cuba's patroness, it has become a beacon for exiles from many nations, luring thousands of worshippers each year. After retirement, Bishop Román remained active at the Shrine, where he greeted visitors, taught catechesis, responded to letters from fellow Cuban exiles, answered the phone and heard confessions until the last day of his life.
He is fluent in Latin, English, and French, and holds advanced degrees in theology and human resources. He served on the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Hispanic Affairs, and was a member of the Committee on Migration and Tourism. Prior to becoming a bishop, he worked as a hospital chaplain (1968-1973); director of the Spanish-speaking Cursillo Movement (1978-1979); spiritual director of the Charismatic Movement (1977-1979); member of the committee on Popular Piety; and episcopal vicar for the Spanish-speaking people of the Archdiocese (1976 – 1984).
The son of humble Cuban peasants, Bishop Román has never forgotten his roots. His ministry in South Florida has been marked by humility, tenacity and unceasing devotion to his work. He tends to speak in parables, using stories full of everyday symbolism to illustrate his point. Yet in his quiet, unassuming way, he gets things done.
At no time was this more evident than in December, 1986, when Cuban detainees rioted in federal prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, LA, to protest their indefinite incarceration and probable deportation to Cuba. Seeking a mediator for their negotiations with federal agents, the prisoners called on Bishop Román, who had been corresponding with many of them or their families since their arrival on the 1980 Mariel boatlift. His role in ending the crisis without loss of blood earned him recognition as ABC News' Person of the Week, "a man of compassion, gentility and commitment... a man with a strong personality and humble spirit."
When the press began calling him a hero, Bishop Roman responded with characteristic humility: "A bishop, a priest, is a servant, not a hero."
Auxiliary Bishop Agustín A. Román
Biography Of The Most Reverend Agustín Román (13:20) Spanish Version
May 25, 2004
- May 5, 1928, San Antonio de los Banos, Havana, Cuba
- April 11, 2012, Miami, Florida
- To the priesthood, July 5,1959, for the Diocese of Matanzas, Cuba
- Titular Bishop of Sertei and Auxiliary to the Archbishop of Miami, March 24,1979
- Philosophy: St. Albert the Great Seminary, Matanzas, Cuba
- Theology: Seminary for Foreign Missions, Montreal, Canada
- Master's in Religious Studies, Barry College (now university), Miami, Florida
- Master's in Human Resources, Biscayne College (now St. Thomas University), Opa-Locka, Florida
- Diocese of Matanzas, Cuba, 1959 - 1961: Pastor of Coliseo-Lagunillas and Pedro Betancourt parishes, and spiritual director of Catholic Youth
- Expelled from Cuba, September 17,1961, along with 132 fellow priests and Bishop Eduardo Boza Masvidal
- Diocese of Temuco, Chile, 1962 - 1966: Spiritual director and professor of the Institute of Humanities; pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, in Temuco; spiritual director of Cursillo
Archdiocese of Miami, 1966 to present:
- He served as Vicar General, Consultor, member of the Archbishop's Executive Council, as well as Vicar for Hispanics from 1976 to 2003
- From 1979 to 1997, he served as Executive Director of the Ministry of Pastoral Service, which includes: Hispanic movements; ministry to Haitians, Blacks and other cultural groups; ministry to families, youth, young adults, the sick, the handicapped, farmworkers, prisoners, and Respect Life
- He served as director, Ministry of Persons, which includes priests, religious and laity, from 1997 to 2003
- Director, Our Lady of Charity Shrine, since 1967; rector emeritus since 2003
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