Fr. Caesar Rubiano
Fr. Caesar Rubiano

In a quiet area amid the otherwise bustling corridors of Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Father Caesar Rubiano thumbed through the lengthy list of Catholic patients he received upon checking in after Mass or morning prayers at Holy Innocents Church, Neptune, where he resides.

For the recently arrived Catholic chaplain at the 700 beds, Level II trauma center, his ministry begin daily around 11 a.m. Since statistics show 60 percent of the patients in the Medical Center at any given time are apt to be Catholic, the rounds will likely go on for some time, and later on he will be responding to the emergencies on call.

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Still, Father Rubiano, who this year marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination, found time to share insights on the journey that led to this ministry of prayer, comfort and consolation which began, he said, not with a “vocational call” in the traditional sense, but in an ever-deepening interest for Catholicism and its roots.

“Growing up in Colombia, I was Presbyterian and participated actively there in the youth ministry, then during my last year of high school at the American School in Armero,” he said. “I became interested in participating in a Holy Week in the Catholic faith. My attraction to Catholicism after that experience was not by dogma, but history.”

“I was fascinated about knowing what was behind the Church for 2,000 years when the churches of the Reformation had at most 500 years behind them,” Father Rubiano, said. “This opportunity opened my eyes and heart to the priesthood.”

Along the way

From his description, the journey built steadily from there.

One of three children of Fanny A. de Rubiano and the late Gonzalo V. Rubiano, young Caesar was born in October 1967 in San Juan Rioseco, a small village in Colombia. He studied for the priesthood at Valmaría Major Seminary of the Eudist Fathers and was ordained there for the Eudist-Congregation of Jesus and Mary on March 30, 1996, by then late Bishop Carlos Jose Ruiseco, who was later Archbishop of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

“Through years of study in Colombia and during ministry, I began to hear what others described as the “call” and little by little, I listened to it. I obeyed it and followed it, and with God’s grace, I remained faithful,” he said. “Most of my ministry has involved assisting those with the power to serve (the faithful)” he said. They include Father Rafael Garcia Herreros, Colombian leader of the Charismatic Catholic Minuto de Dios organization, whose cause for sainthood is underway, he said.

The call persisted when he was sent to live in the United States by his congregation shortly after ordination and throughout his first assignment to the campus ministry program in San Diego State University, a subsequent hospital chaplaincy and outreach to those with HIV/AIDS in New York and volunteering for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office in the domestic violence program: the Family Justice Center. He finished his master’s degree in theology at St John’s University in NY.

After encouragement from Father Javier Díaz, now pastor of Christ The King Parish, Long Branch, to consider serving in the Trenton Diocese, Father Rubiano was appointed in 2007 as an adjunct priest in St. Mark Parish, Sea Girt, and two months later, named diocesan coordinator of the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal, based there.

It was also in 2007 that he was appointed secretary and master of ceremonies to the late Bishop John M. Smith, Ninth Bishop of Trenton.

Incardinated into the Trenton Diocese by Bishop Smith on March 30, 2009, he resided and served at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton. He would also be named administrator of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in 2014 and pastor in 2015, serving for six years in that capacity.

Eternal Law

Now in his ministry as Catholic chaplain at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Father Rubiano looks forward to sharing a Catholic sensibility and the mercy of Jesus on his rounds. Having completed his license degree in Rome in moral/bioethics in the field of pain and suffering, he is now finishing virtually a doctorate in bioethics in the field of empathy and neurobiology of morals at Alphonsianum Academy (Rome).

His studies focused on mental health and addiction with the emphasis on bringing spiritual insight into how the brain functions when it comes to considering the treatment given to those afflicted with such conditions. “I think the Church has something to say to society about this,” he said, “and that we have a lot to learn about the sometimes-broken human nature created by the perfect God.”