A few days before his death, in a humble home adjacent to the seaside sanctuary shrine erected with the help of loyal parishioners struggling to make their own new lives in a new land, Auxiliary Bishop Agustín Román was asked by a columnist for his definition of the Ermita de la Caridad.
The beloved bishop closed his eyes and visualized a series of memories in a church in Coconut Grove that has served as a bastion of the Catholic faith for Cuban exiles like himself.
“It’s a living devotion,” Román replied to el Nuevo Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth.
“What do you mean by ‘living’?” Shoer asked.
“One thing is a dry devotion in which people follow a faith but they don’t know why,” he said. “A living devotion is an active devotion, that moves on its own, is full of life and does not need religious enlightenment.”
The response led to a winding road of research and ultimately a biography of the first Cuban to be named bishop in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Román died following a heart attack on April 11, 2012, at the age of 83. But his life is now encapsulated in a book, Agustín Román, pastor, profeta, patriarca, written by Shoer that will be presented on Saturday at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
Appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami in 1979, Román left Cuba in 1961 after being expelled by Fidel Castro's regime. He came to Miami in 1966, where he founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, named after Cuba’s patroness known as the Ermita de la Caridad.
Román oversaw its construction and remained active at the church, even after retiring as its rector and as Miami auxiliary bishop, up to the last days of his life. Thousands flocked to the memorial service to pay their final respects to their devout spiritual leader.
“The Archdiocese of Miami has lost a great evangelizer who tirelessly preached the Gospel to all,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski said when Román died. “And the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot.”
IF YOU GO
What: Book presentation of biography of Monsignor Agustín Román by author Daniel Shoer Roth
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd.
Cost: Free though RSVP is required via www.thecenteratmdc.org
Note: The presentation will be in Spanish.