OGDEN, Utah — Utah's Catholic community is mourning the loss of Father Rene Rodillas Sunday. Rodillas passed away on Friday in Ogden, just three days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Rodillas was the pastor of St. James the Just Catholic Church in Ogden. Parishioners say they are shocked and heartbroken.
"The community is hurting," said John Valdez tearfully. "It's hard to describe what he must have suffered in those last few days."
"It certainly has been a tragedy for the whole diocese," said Father Ken Vialpando, the vicar for clergy at the Salt Lake City Diocese. "He's well loved."
Rodillas was originally from the Philippines, and arrived in Utah in 2007.
"Because of his ministerial skills he's been involved in 5 different parishes."
Before coming to Ogden as the pastor of St. James in 2018, Rodillas served in West Valley, St. George, Midvale and Bountiful.
"When he came to us, our community started to grow," Valdez said. "Because those who had known him from other parishes would follow him, to be with him, to listen to him and to associate with him."
Valdez described Father Rodillas as a man of sacrifice.
"Not many know that he would donate the majority of his salary back to his family in the Philippines," he added.
Rodillas was said to have loved music, and always had a big smile on his face.
"He loved to sing!" Valdez said. "He would come into church singing. I would tease him that 'Frank Sinatra is in the building,' and he would break out into a Frank Sinatra tune."
Valdez said Rodillas made a large impact on the Ogden community in his three years as pastor.
"Father Rodillas walked the talk," he added. "He touched a lot of lives. He was more than a priest to us. He was one of us."
The Diocese of Salt Lake City said Rodillas' exact cause of death is still being determined by the medical examiner. His funeral services will be held at the Cathedral of the Madeline, and will be live streamed for the community.