Monsignor Jorge González: an Argentinian bishop born of the Shrine
On September 15th, he will be ordained auxiliary bishop of La Plata, Argentina
By: María Jimena Ciuró
Jorge Esteban González, 54 years old, has been a priest for 27 years, and in the next few days he will be ordained as auxiliary bishop of La Plata, the first Argentinian bishop who was born of the Schoenstatt Shrine and is deeply united to the movement. “As children of the Blessed Mother, we experience the spirit of the Covenant; from this certainty, I abandon myself and take up this mission that the Pope is asking of me,” expressed Msgr. González in an exclusive interview with Schoenstatt.com.
His episcopal ordination will be next Tuesday, September 15th, on the anniversary of Father Kentenich’s death. During the celebration, there will be many important signs since Msgr. González will use the chasuble from Father Kentenich’s golden priestly jubilee which the founder sent to Msgr. Plaza for the blessing of the Shrine of La Plata. Msgr. González will also use the chalice that the founder gave to St. Paul VI when being rehabilitated to his functions with the Movement, after his exile.
With his deliberate, but Spirit-filled dialogue, Msgr. Jorge González shared his personal story with us as well as the pastoral imprint his episcopate will have. “I would very much like to be able to make the Covenant of Love present in life,” he emphasized, outlining the path he will begin to take as pastor of the Catholic Church.
Msgr. Jorge González, first of all to know more about you, we would like you to mention some important notes or milestones of your life and pastoral formation.
I am Father Jorge Esteban González from the Archdiocese of La Plata, ordained a priest in 1992. Born in the city of La Plata and I was part of the Schoenstatt boys’ youth since I was young. In 1984, I entered the diocesan seminary having already sealed my Covenant of Love here in the Shrine of Liberation (La Plata). As a seminarian, I quickly became part of the branch which was being formed at that time in Argentina, and I decided with other seminarian brothers to join the Federation of Diocesan Priests almost at the same time.
Until then, only one course had been formed in Argentina and two more courses were being formed. That is how I experienced the process of growth and expansion of the federation in our country. I belonged to the third course of federated priests and when my course made the final incorporation, we constituted ourselves as “Region Fathers of La Plata.”
Once I was ordained, I worked as a parochial vicar at the cathedral, then as a formator at St. Joseph’s Major Seminary. I spent a few years studying spiritual theology in Rome and returned in 2001 where I took over the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in City Bell and remained there as pastor for 18 years.
For many of those years, I was an advisor to the girl’s youth in Argentina when Fr. Horacio Sosa died. When the change of bishop took place and Msgr. Victor Fernandez arrived, he asked me to be vice vicar general of the archdiocese and rector and pastor of the cathedral. I returned to be near the Shrine, where the journey had begun.
How was your connection to Schoenstatt?
My entire spiritual journey was made in the Covenant of Love and I was fundamentally linked to this federation community that grew throughout all these years. I was also able to attend the formation of some of the courses for priests and witness, with much joy, the constitution of the International Federation of Diocesan Priests. This was an important step for our community and the Schoenstatt family, where Providence also placed a brother Argentinean, Fr. Alejandro Blanco, as General Secretary.
I believe in this way that the Movement is enriched with the contribution of the different cultures and views, which are helping its international structure. As you will notice, it is in the federation that expresses the strongly diocesan identity that I always felt in my vocational path and in some way, from where the mission spreads. The Shrine of Liberation, of which I am a son, has much significance. That is why when I returned as pastor of the cathedral, I experienced it as a very big grace…again close and pastor of the Shrine. That always gave me much joy.
From its birth, this Shrine was very connected to the figure of Fr. Joseph Kentenich as well as this mission that is expressed in the roots of the Shrine, the love for the Church, and the sense of communion between Schoenstatt and the Church. In some way on this path of the episcopate, God’s providence also makes a sign of all this in the role and in the task that I have to carry out. It is not by chance that the first Schoenstatt bishop of Argentina comes out of this shrine and this place… It is one more sign of the Blessed Mother and I think it should be read as such. Precisely on the day of my ordination, September 15th, it is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows where I am the parish pastor. It is also very significant for us because it is the day of Fr.Kentenich’s departure to the house of the Father, precisely the anniversary of his death.
God willing, I will be ordained with the chasuble which Father Kentenich received as a gift on his golden anniversary as a priest and which he personally sent from Milwaukee as a present to the then Archbishop of La Plata, Msgr. Plaza, who had taken the initiative to build the Shrine here. Those were the vestments he wore on the day of the blessing.
Also God willing, the chalice that will be used in my consecration Mass is the chalice that Fr. Kentenich gave to St. Paul VI when he called him again and reinstated him to the life of Schoenstatt, after his exile, a very symbolic chalice which reveals this mission of the post-conciliar Church. I believe that these signs express or contain the entire mission that I feel the Lord and the Blessed Mother place before me.
How did you receive Pope Francis’ call to be the auxiliary bishop of La Plata?
One never prepares to be a bishop, on the contrary, one evades it… – he mentions between laughs-. In fact, I lived very happily as a local priest for so many years, as I was telling you. For me, it was a beautiful experience to have been a parish pastor in a concrete community such as City Bell, in its chapels, in its schools. I was also able to carry out other tasks in my priestly life: advising the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth which was a great treasure throughout the country, all the work within the federation, and others related to the formation of the laity. I thought that the new phase in the Cathedral and in the diocese was beginning when a new call, a new mission came to me. We always talked about availability and I had nothing left to do but think of the Blessed Mother. How much surrender! And without being very clear about how or why, she abandoned herself…and said “fiat”…and here we are.
Clearly, I did not have this new mission on my horizon. When God calls and one clearly interprets that it is a call from God and a very concrete service to God’s people, many fears and insecurities and a very deep sense of fragility are intertwined. If one adds to this the very complex context we are living at the national and international level with all the meaning of the pandemic crisis, then it seems impossible to bear. But one also knows that it is not about one’s own work but about the mission, the fidelity of God, and as children of the Blessed Mother we experience the spirit of the Covenant; from this certainty, I abandon myself and I assume this mission that the pope is asking of me.
What impact did the news of your appointment have on other bishops?
I have felt a lot of affection and closeness from the bishops of Argentina about the appointment. They quickly welcomed me, they greeted me with much simplicity and fraternity, and they also made me feel precisely this belonging to Schoenstatt. They spoke to me about the Blessed Mother, one of them called me from the Shrine of Rosario because he knew that precisely for me the Shrine was a beloved place on my vocational path. I believe that these are subtleties that are not only very pleasant emotionally, but they also show the value of the identity of the other, and I believe that this is a very beautiful sign.
Considering your connection to Schoenstatt in this particular time for the Movement, is it a certainty that the Church sees that Schoensttatt can make an important contribution from its charism, for the episcopate?
I feel that there are many providential dimensions this year, with all the challenges that this new time of the pandemic and post-pandemic presents and what it means to rethink our pastoral structures, our experience of Church, our service to the world and to our country. I also think about the meaning that Schoenstatt has for the Church, what it means and has been for us in this particular year. I also think about the figure of Father Kentenich and the challenge that we have to be able to live as children of our father and founder, and to be able to free his charism and his figure that we see that he still continues with so many ties in the mission and his person. I believe that there is also much to talk about, to say, to work on, and to discover.
You are the first Schoenstatt bishop chosen to be part of the Argentine episcopate. What are your feelings?
There are several Latin American Schoenstatt bishops, some Schoenstatt Fathers, several Federation bishops in Brazil, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Chad (Africa), and I am the first in our country. After so many years of work, it is a great challenge to be able to share our charism, our vista of the times, of the Church and of the world… with simplicity and humility, I will try to contribute with what I have lived and know. Fr. Kentenich insisted to St. Paul VI something that always resounded within me and in the conscience of my community: to be guarantors of the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. That is the most important thing that we have to discover in this time: it is nothing other than to assume all the challenges that Pope Francis is leaving us as Church to all.
In that sense, it is very important to follow the pope’s thought, fundamentally in Evangelii Gaudium and in all his teaching, in these rich intuitions that he has in this time. He is a man of the Spirit and helps us to discern what the Lord is asking us: the change of era, the post-pandemic. Francis is insisting that after this we cannot come out in the same way; either we come out better or we come out worse. We must engage in the construction of a new world. I believe that all this is very related to our entire Schoenstatt world and I believe that we all have to work on this.
I would like very much to be able to make the Covenant of Love present in life, and for this to be something more recognized and more naturally felt by all. I will have to work as a bishop in a very concrete area which is the area of education in the province of Buenos Aires. Working in this very complicated time of crisis and in relation to all the schools of the religious institutions, I also see it as the providence of God since the pedagogy is very important in the charism.
I believe that more important than talking about the charism is that we can live this in a dimension of service, of common construction and a way of leading that is proper to Schoenstatt’s pedagogy and that is what I would fundamentally like to contribute.
Thinking as a bishop and pastor of the Church, what important aspects would you like to emphasize?
Regarding pastoral priorities, I will be an auxiliary bishop which has a very particular pastoral development. Clearly the father of the diocese is the bishop; the diocese does not have two bishops but one with whom it makes that particular commitment; and in our case it is Archbishop Víctor Fernández, its pastor. I come as an auxiliary bishop to work and accompany his pastoral ministry. I have just begun this journey and I will have to carry out those tasks, missions that he will entrust to me in order to incorporate me into his ministry as pastor in the areas that he entrusts to me.
It seems to me that I cannot think of myself as a pastor in any other way than in the manner of Jesus the Good Shepherd and in the spirit that Pope Francis encourages us to live. I will have to walk in that line.
If you had to say in one word, where would you like to spend more time?
In this sense the expressions: a Church that goes out, a Church that walks together with the other, Mary, mercy, consolation, peace… are expressions that move me a lot and I think they have to do with the essence of our faith. A more kerigmatic and missionary Church are central elements that will have to give color to my pastoral ministry as bishop. More than saying a few things, let me live and may the path I walk mark out my priorities.
On the day his appointment as bishop was published, Msgr. Jorge González recorded this video
The celebration of the episcopal ordination of Msgr. González will take place on Tuesday, September 15th, at 6:00 p.m., local time. It will be broadcast on YouTube: bit.ly/iglesialaplatayt and Facebook: bit.ly/iglesialaplatafb. There will be a preview, starting at 17:30.