In his death, as in life, Bishop Agustín Román thought first of his church and the country of his birth.
The Cuban bishop, who had been serving the Catholic community in Miami since 1966, died on April 11 and left $60,000 in his will to the Diocese of Matanzas in his native Cuba.
“Bishop Román was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Matanzas in 1959. He always maintained great love for Cuba and especially the Province of Matanzas,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski in announcing the gift.
He said that Román also left part of his inheritance to Our Lady of Charity Shrine in Coconut Grove, known in Spanish as la Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre, which houses a replica of the patron virgin of Cuba. The bishop helped build the shrine with small donations from members of the community. This year marks 400 years since the image of the virgin was found in the bay near Santiago de Cuba.
Román was forced to leave Cuba on Sept. 17, 1961, by revolutionary forces loyal to Fidel Castro. He was put on a boat to Spain with over 130 other Catholic priests and nuns, and he also worked in Chile before setting in Miami.
When Pope John Paul II named him as the auxiliary archbishop of Miami in 1979, Román told El Nuevo Herald in an interview that he was surprised.
“Why should I care about being a bishop?” he asked. “My dream was to work in Cuba in my Diocese of Matanzas.”
As worshipers left Mass at Ermita de la Caridad on Monday, many of them remembered Román as a spiritual man who was deeply connected to the community.
Eugenio Brito, 80, came to Miami from Cuba 50 years ago and said that Bishop Román was known to be “very honest and upright.”
Delia Vicente, 73, is an accountant from Buenos Aires who comes to Miami two or three times a year and always visits Ermita de la Caridad. She and her husband celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary in Miami with a Mass given by Román.
“I loved the way he spoke and preached,” she said. “He had a special way of making everyone feel like a part of the faith and the church.”
In an email to the Miami Herald, Archbishop Wenksi explained that the bishop’s “two great loves” were his native Cuba and Ermita de la Caridad, both of which were recognized in Román’s will. The archdiocese did not disclose the total worth of his estate.
“Bishop Roman lived a life of extreme simplicity,” Wenski said. “He never spent anything on himself and this frugality made possible this generous gift.”