Members of the San Luigi Orders: Archbishop Emile Rodriguez y Fairfield

Archbishop Emile Federico Rodriguez y Fairfield (1912-2005) was the last Archbishop-Primate of the Iglesia Ortodoxa Católica Apostólica Méxicana (Mexican National Catholic Church). He was admitted to the Order of the Crown of Thorns as a Grande Officier in July 1961 by Prince-Abbot Edmond I and served as a Vice Chancellor of the San Luigi Orders.

Emile Federico Rodriguez was born in Michoacan, Mexico, on 22 July 1912. In 1932, he represented Mexico in the 1,500 metres at the Olympic Games at Los Angeles, being eliminated at the heats stage. He was ordained priest on 21 June 1938 by his elder brother, Alberto Luis Rodriguez y Durand (1901-55), who was Bishop of Los Angeles in the Mexican National Catholic Church. The MNCC had been formed in 1926 by fiat of Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora, Primate of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, and was closely associated with that denomination. It was a national body intended to provide a valid Catholic alternative to the Roman Catholic Church, and initially attracted a numerous following. Rodriguez y Fairfield became an American citizen in 1944, and pastored the Church of St Augustine of the Mystical Body of Christ in East Los Angeles. He spent a year in India as a physical education instructor in 1953 and added the surname “Fairfield” in recollection of his athletic ability since his sponsors wanted him to have a more English-sounding name.

On 12 March 1955, in one his last acts, Bishop Rodriguez y Durand consecrated his brother as bishop. However, Rodriguez y Fairfield and the other MNCC bishops were unable to halt a decline in the MNCC that was caused by improving relations between Mexico and the Roman Catholic Church; against this background the appeal of a national independent Catholic church inevitably decreased. The work became increasingly concentrated upon serving the Mexican immigrant population in California. After the death of Archbishop Carfora in 1958, Rodriguez y Fairfield made the decision to affiliate his church with the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain under Archbishop Gerard George Shelley, which union was effected in 1962, and also worked closely with Archbishop Aneed (q.v.) and Prince-Abbot Edmond I, both of whom bestowed additional commissioning upon him by means of subconditional consecration. Prince-Abbot Edmond I described him in 1961 as “a real spiritual man..a real asset to the Order.” In 1963 Rodriguez y Fairfield was accepted additionally into the Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction of Archbishop Richard A. Marchenna, another successor of Carfora, and served as his bishop for the Western States.

Rodriguez y Fairfield consecration of Edmond IIArchbishop Rodriguez y Fairfield at the private oratory of Prince-Abbot Edmond II on the occasion of the latter’s consecration in 1963

When Archbishop Shelley died in 1980, he was succeeded by Fr. Michael J. Farrell, who was consecrated bishop in June 1981 by Rodriguez y Fairfield assisted by John Joseph Humphreys. However, Farrell resigned as Primate within a few months of his consecration, and as a result Rodriguez y Fairfield became Primate of the Old Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop of Caer-Glow. In 1983, with the death of Primate José Cortez y Olmos, Rodriguez y Fairfield became the only surviving bishop of the MNCC and was installed as Primate of that church on 13 September 1983. In 1984, Rodriguez y Fairfield resigned the Primacy of the Old Roman Catholic Church in favour of the present incumbent, Archbishop John J. Humphries.

During this period, Rodriguez y Fairfield signed an agreement of intercommunion between the MNCC and the Apostolic Episcopal Church under its primate Bertil Persson, and participated in a number of ecumenical initiatives as part of the work of that church, also working closely with AEC Archbishop Paul G.W. Schultz who was a senior member of the San Luigi Orders. As a result of this, his succession passes to the present Prince-Abbot as well as to the Universal Primate of the Order of Corporate Reunion, Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan (San Luigi Grand Prior of the USA), who was consecrated by Rodriguez y Fairfield and Schultz. In 1988, the MNCC entered into intercommunion with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Catholic Church) as did the AEC.

He passed away on 2 January 2005 leaving a son and daughter, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. An In Memoriam page for him is maintained by the American Catholic Union here. We close with the words of one of his prayers:

May the light of His star
illumine your path
and the wings of His love
enfold you forever

Que la luz de Su estrella
ilumine tu camino
y las alas de Su amor
te envuelvan para siempre