Back in August Catholics and non-Catholics alike were dismayed to hear the story of a priest who was issued a parking ticket while rushing to administer the Sacraments to a hospitalized woman. Several people responded with prayers, donations, and words of support for the priest and his ministry, but none had quite the same effect as 6-year old Brandon Rodriguez.
Young Rodriguez was at the family dinner table in Kissimmee, Florida listening to his father and mother recount the story of Fr. Cletus Forson--ticketed by the city of New York while he made an emergency hospital call to what he thought to be a dying woman. Despite Fr. Forson’s placing a “Clergy on Call” placard in his window before rushing into the hospital, city officials ticked his vehicle alone among the many others left by hospital employees.
“I was very upset and sad,” Rodriguez’s father Izzy told CNA. In the middle of dinner, Brandon suddenly jumped out of his seat and ran to his room, returning with a t-shirt sagging with change and his suitcase.”
“How much do I have?” Brandon asked.
Knowing what his son was up to, Rodriquez told him he had enough to do whatever he wanted.
Brandon replied, “I want to go to New York and help the Father!”
Rodriguez didn’t think much of the idea until the next evening when he returned from work. Walking into the house from the auto shop he runs, Rodriquez was confronted by an insistent Brandon, “So, when are we leaving to New York?”
With that, Rodriguez’s wife Karen booked a flight for father and son and soon they were off.
The Rodriguez pair met with Fr. Forson at his Brooklyn parish, offering their moral and spiritual support. Izzy also gave the priest a check which more than paid for the ticket.
But Fr. Forson told CNA that the financial support was not the most moving part of the story. “This 6 year old Brandon who came and said, ‘well Father, carry on and good job,’ that short sentence of encouragement…does more for me than the money they came to give.”
The priest added that the wave of support he has received from around the nation has greatly moved him. “Its certainly revitalizing,” he said. “It gives me a sense of hope and strength that I’m not alone in my ministry; there are people out there who support the ministry that I’m doing.”
Fr. Forson is ordained for a diocese in Ghana, Africa, and is helping out at a Brooklyn parish while he works on his doctorate. He said that although the city went ahead with charges, he has nonetheless been inspired by the whole event.
“There has been so much said about the ticket… on our side, the story has been closed. For me it’s a time to go ahead with vitality and hope that in spite of everything there are people out there who still value the work that we do as priests. In the midst of all the notes from among Catholics there are also not-Catholics who have spoken in favor of what I did. That really gives me and other priests a sense of edification.”
If anyone is not surprised by the event, it’s Brandon’s parents. The elder Rodriquez boasted to CNA that “We have an awesome 6 year old son and are we blessed…Brandon is just a giver with God in his heart.”
He recounted that Brandon, who is an asthmatic, “blesses his little brother every night with the sign of the cross on his forehead. He donates toys he buys on his own” to local charities and he “has collected over $3000.00 for the Children’s Miracle Network in Orlando Florida--all on his own.”