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Dora Rodriguez, a woman of faith, ‘A Light to the World’
Dora receives her Lumen Centium Christifidelis Laici (A Light to the World) award from San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller.
Apple Pie and SalsaSeptember 4, 2013 2,786 views 2 comments
This is the first of a two-part story of Dora Rodriguez, a remarkable woman.
My friend and sister in Christ, Dora Rodriguez, received a very special award on Jan. 31 of this year. It was presented to her by San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller at a special awards ceremony in San Antonio. It is called the Lumen Centium Christifidelis Laici (A Light to the World) award. It was started two years ago. Dora is the second recipient from Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The award is bestowed upon a Catholic layperson from each parish who has demonstrated participation in the Catholic Church’s mission to bring Christ to all. The individual is nominated by his or her pastor and confirmed by the archbishop. They agree that “the individual has used his/her talents to deepen the life of the church in the parish or has served in an extraordinary way the ministry of the parish.”
And Dora has done that -- mostly, but not limited to -- through her music ministry throughout the years.
From the early age of 8, Dora went with her parents and siblings to work in the fields of Montana. There she met a man who played the guitar. She spent a lot of time listening to and watching the man. Her father noticed her interest in music and bought her a guitar. She mostly taught herself by trial and error and other people showed her different chords. Soon she was playing traditional church songs taught by her parents and grandmother. She continued playing for her own pleasure and for her family until the age of 13. Then she decided it wasn’t “cool” anymore. She was still going with her parents to work in the fields and continued to do so until the age of 19 when she married José Rodriguez.
She had known him for some time and “had her eye on him,” but he had other interests. But by then the two families were working together, so he had to notice her. They were married in 1954. They continued going to Montana during the summer months. José had a regular job at Southern Steel in San Antonio at that time. Dora says that he always had a job to come back to.
They started a family but continued to migrate north with their families. But now they had their own farms to work. Their work took them to Montana and Wisconsin, where they worked for the Heinz Co., and Nebraska and Arkansas, where they picked cotton. As the family grew and the children started school, José and Dora made sure they did not head north until school was out, and they made it a point to be back home before school started. Their children’s education was very important to them. It was something neither one of them had been given the opportunity to obtain.
Dora picked up her guitar again after making her Cursillo in 1964. She started playing at the ultreyas (Monday night meetings) in church with Pablo Ximenez. Then they started playing at Masses. At first the choir consisted of Pablo, Dora, and her four sisters. They did some awesome harmonizing together. Others, like me, joined the choir and it grew. Even Scott Donaho (before he became a deacon) and his wife, Mary Jane, joined the Spanish choir.
Dora and I reminisced at length about some of the events and functions at which we sang. We sang at many weddings, anniversaries, and ecumenical services. We sang downtown around Christmastime, and went caroling, choosing especially the shut-ins. We would do serenatas (serenades) at night for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, sometimes getting home just in time to shower and make it to the 8 a.m. Mass. We also sang at a Mass at the Rancho de las Cabras when it was discovered. And Dora was always available. Her family was very supportive.
After Tom and Anne-Marie Kane joined the Spanish choir in 1979, we sang at a Mass at the Texas Folklife Festival. We attended workshops. At one, we premiered the Mass by singing a new composition by a German lady. Tom quit music for a year in 1985 and later went to an English choir. He returned to play with the Spanish choir (now the bilingual choir) in 1994 and is still doing it. Many other musicians have played in our choir through the years, too numerous to name. Dora is grateful for their contributions.
Even while raising their family of 11, Dora continued to give of her time and talents. Dora stopped going to work in the fields after her last child was born. José and the older children continued going for several years.
In 1976, Dora started working outside the home. She credits Head Start for the privilege of sending two or three of her children there, affording her the opportunity to work. She worked for different agencies, but her longest stint was with the Community Council of South Central Texas. She worked well into the ’80s.
In 1975, she and her sister, Josie, and their families started a tradition that would last for 27 years! They befriended two families at Thanksgiving by providing a meal for them at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall. Their children grew up and they all joined in the cause. The event got bigger every year. They started doing it at Christmas, too. They not only provided a meal for needy families, but they had Santa Claus pass out gifts. And, of course, they were treated to Christmas carols by Dora and her sisters. When people couldn’t come anymore, they would go to the poorest parts of the county and distribute food, clothing, and blankets to the needy.
Dora was busy doing other things, too. In 1980, she and her four sisters, Antonia (Toña), Josie, Amelia, and Frances, decided to go to school. All five of them received their GED certificates, something they and their families are very proud of.
Watch for the second part of this story in a coming issue.
Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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