While leading an extremely frugal life, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Agustín Román was able to save more than $120,000 — the fruits of four decades of work at the Archdiocese of Miami and stipends he received for his private priestly services.
When he died on April 11, the money he left was to be divided between the evangelization work at the Ermita de la Caridad, the sanctuary he founded in Coconut Grove, and the Diocese of Matanzas in Cuba, where he was ordained as a priest in 1959, according to the will deposited with the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts. A copy of the will was obtained by El Nuevo Herald through a public-records request.
The archdiocese announced two weeks ago that Román had left $60,000 for Matanzas, which had been sent to the bishop of that diocese, Msgr. Manuel Hilario de Céspedes. But no information was given about the donation to the Ermita, which has created discontent and a certain degree of discomfort among Román’s devotees, according to lay leaders of the Ermita.
On Wednesday, Rafael Peñalver, Román’s attorney, said that the archdiocese had told him that the amount of money assigned to the Ermita was similar to that of Matanzas. El Nuevo Herald confirmed this with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “The amount is similar or larger than what he donated to the Church in Cuba,” said Wenski, who is the executor of Román’s will.
Mary Ross Agosta, spokesperson of the archdiocese, said the amount is not available because the will has yet to be executed.
The will does not offer details of Román’s patrimony, but alludes to a separate letter he signed in which his personal property is listed. The letter was sent in March 2009 to then-archbishop John Favalora. The archdiocese allowed El Nuevo Herald to review it.
“I leave no material possessions other than a few and other minor items of personal property,” Román wrote. “My only other assets are the stipends and donations that I’ve received over the years for my priestly services.”
“I used what monies were needed for my basic needs and saved the rest in five bank accounts,” he added.
Román said that the balances of four of the five accounts should be used by the archdiocese toward the evangelization at the Ermita and the funds in the fifth account transferred to the Diocese of Matanzas immediately after his death.
Miguel Núñez, president of the Confraternity of the Ermita, a lay entity with more than 50,000 registered devotees, criticized the archdiocese for omitting Román’s donation to the Ermita when he wasinformed of the donation to Matanzas in a press release.
“There was motivation behind this news,” said Núñez, a friend of Román’s. “I can’t pinpoint what it is, but I have my suspicions. The way in which it was announced lends itself to speculations.” He said the issue has created discontent among parishioners.
“There is certain degree of discomfort among the devotees, among the members of the confraternity,” Núñez said. “It doesn’t bother us that money is being sent to the bishopric of Matanzas because while he was alive, he was always helping his diocese of origin. The problem is the way the will was presented. What about the Ermita, which was his work?
The Archdiocese of Miami denied the announcement of the donation to Matanzas had a political tint.
“The intention was to show that this humble man never lost the love for his church,” Agosta said. “As we say in the universal Church, the people are the Church and this was a gift to the people.”
She said that they were following Román’s instructions contained in his will of sending first the money to Matanzas.
Román had planned to spend his entire life in Matanzas. But he was expelled by the revolutionary authorities in September 1961 and was forced to leave in a boat to Spain together with 130 priests and nuns.
In his will, Román does not express any resentment or any personal revelations. He thanks God for his religious life.
“I leave this world eternally grateful to the Lord for the gift of life,” he wrote. “Life is precious and God asks us to use every moment wisely, never losing sight of the reality of death and the promise of eternal life.”