Victor M. Rodriguez, Former Lutheran President of Caribbean, Dies
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Victor M. Rodriguez, a synod president of the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died June 18 from injuries sustained in a car accident in Ocala, Fla. He was 81.
A memorial service for Rodriguez was held June 20 at his home congregation, Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Ocala, Fla. Another memorial service will be held July 15 at Iglesia Luterana La Santisima Trinidad (Holy Trinity Lutheran Church), Lomas Verdes, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Born in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, Rodriguez received a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, in 1952, and a master of divinity degree from Mount Airy Seminary, Philadelphia, in 1955. The seminary became the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia -- one of eight seminaries of the ELCA. As a seminarian, Rodriguez started the first Lutheran Latino ministry in Camden, N.J. In 1969 Rodriguez was awarded an honorary degree from Wagner College, Staten Island, N.Y. Wagner is one of 28 colleges and universities of the ELCA.
Ordained in 1955 in the former United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), Rodriguez was pastor of Iglesia Luterana Nuestro Salvador (Our Savior Lutheran Church), Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, from 1955 to 1957. He was pastor of Iglesia Luterana Santisima Trinidad from 1957 to 1964. There Rodriguez helped start the first Lutheran school -- pre-kindergarten to grade 12 -- in the Caribbean Synod.
In 1964 Rodriguez became president of the ULCA's Caribbean Synod. During his tenure the ULCA became the LCA, and Rodriguez continued his role as president until 1976. The LCA merged with two other Lutheran churches in 1987 to form the ELCA in 1988.
After serving 12 years as synod president, Rodriguez became a mission developer and started two congregations -- Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey (Christ the King Lutheran Church), Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Iglesia Luterana Christo Victorioso (Christus Victor Lutheran Church), Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez retired in 1991 and moved to Ocala, Fla.
"His life and ministry were a witness of God's work in the world. Our family affirms his ministry and sees him as our mentor. My uncle has a brother, some nieces and nephews who serve at the ELCA churchwide office, seminaries and congregations," said Carmen Rodriquez-Rivera, director of Latino ministries, ELCA Multicultural Ministries, and a niece of Victor Rodriguez. "We continue to live in the hope that he is now living in the Church Triumphant," she said.
"For us it has been a sincere loss. He is deeply cared for among members of the ELCA Caribbean Synod, and we ask God to console his family," said the Rev. Francisco L. Sosa, interim bishop, ELCA Caribbean Synod.
Rodriguez is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sara, and their two adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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