MARIA DE LA LUZ “LUCY” RODRÍGUEZ CÁRDENAS
SEPTEMBER 3, 1945 – DECEMBER 29, 2020
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” – John 17:3
Maria de la Luz “Lucy” Rodríguez Cárdenas, 75, entered eternal life on December 29, 2020 in communion with the Saints and Holy Spirit and in the presence of her three children united with her in prayer. She was born on September 3, 1945, lived her life filled with faith in God, devotion to her family, and service to others.
She was given the gifts of devout faith in God, unconditional love, and unyielding assistance to others from her parents, cherishing her role as their daughter and as a sister to her siblings. She honored her late husband throughout their marriage, treasured her three children and eleven beloved grandchildren, and shared her time, talents, and treasure in various professional roles and with numerous civic, charitable and religious organizations.
Lucy loved music in every form and sang with her angelic, exceptional, and professionally trained soprano voice. She attended recitals and musical performances, inclusive of witnessing renowned tenors Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo at Hemisfair Arena in 1988 and the Wortham Theater in 2018, respectively, as well as performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the performing Arts in Washington, Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Majestic Theater of San Antonio, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera and New York City Ballet.
Her voice was a gift from the Holy Spirit that moved and brought people toward joyful tears, filled Catholic masses, family gatherings, and sacramental unions. This unique beauty provided lasting memories, inclusive of an exceptional opportunity to perform in the chorus during a rendition of Antonin Dvorak’s Mass in D Major at Carnegie Hall in 1990, and sing a capella Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria at the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore in 2005.
She began her twelve year education at Laredo’s Ursuline Academy, graduated in 1963, and continued her undergraduate studies at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, Texas. Seeking to serve God and find her true voice and mission, she entered the St. Joseph Ursuline Novitiate in Jefferson County, Missouri following the prior passing of two siblings in 1962 and 1963, respectively, as well as the unfortunate injury of her brother Tomás during his military service in Vietnam, and the untimely death of her beloved father in 1966.
Her religious studies within a cloistered convent over a two-year period provided to her, and eventually to her husband and children, a strong foundation anchored in faith, God’s love, devotion, and service to others. She then completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at TWU earning undergraduate degrees in History, Government, Spanish, and Education as well as graduate degrees in History and Government. A fellow of the South Texas Writing Project Institute, her post graduate studies included courses in Community College Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin; Curriculum Design, Course Design, and Competency-Based Instruction at Laredo State University; Women’s History at TWU; and, International Studies at the Colegio de México in México, D.F., where she received additional certification in Women’s Studies and Women’s History.
Beginning in 1970, Ms. Rodríguez was employed by Laredo Junior College where luckily, on the first day of faculty convocation, she met the love of her life, Alberto Patricio Cárdenas. Within weeks they were engaged. Their wedding day on May 29, 1971 remained the most memorable date of their lives. Together, Lucy and Alberto enjoyed continued involvement in their professional roles, within their parish community at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and most especially with the rearing of their three children, Cristina Doda, Alberto Jr., and Maradelle Lilliam. In their forty six years of marriage, they attended academic and religious conferences, reunions, political conventions, followed Texas Aggie football, ventured to Europe and the Middle East on multiple religious pilgrimages, and mapped annual adventurous family vacations within the United States and Mexico.
Lucy excelled in various roles at Laredo Junior College, inclusive of service as the first Hispanic female full-time, tenured history instructor (1970-2004), teaching on a part time basis after her retirement until December 2006. During her full-time thirty-four year tenure at the college she held various administrative roles including: staff development officer, assistant to the academic dean, director of Basics-Plus, a summer enrichment program for “at-risk” incoming freshmen, and director of Familias Pueden, a Rural Community College Initiative funded by The Ford Foundation. She was a member, officer, and President of the Faculty Senate and was recognized on multiple occasions for community service and exemplary leadership.
As a professional educator, she had the pleasure of serving on numerous statewide committees of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board including the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP) Reading, Review, and Bias Review Committees, respectively, Faculty Review Committee, Faculty Advisory Committee, Council for Women in Higher Education, and the Advisory Committee for Quality and Standards. The Coordinating Board acknowledged and implemented her recommendations on “Under-prepared College Entry Students” into their 1993 report entitled “Master Plan for Texas Higher Education.” She served on the legislative committee for the Texas Community College Teachers Association and was employed as a Reader for the United States Departments of Education and Labor, respectively, where she reviewed and ranked nationwide proposals for federally-funded higher education programs.
Her strong support of Catholic education led her toward service as a member and chair of the Diocesan School Board for the Diocese of Corpus Christi. She was involved in all school actives for her children and grandchildren at Mary Help of Christians, St. Augustine, and Laredo’s public schools, served on the St. Augustine High School and Ursuline Elementary School Board. Following her tenure on this school board, she taught for a five year period at St. Augustine High School.
Lucy’s foray into chronicling the history of Laredo’s women began when at the age of fourteen she assisted her father in the successful campaign to elect Norma Zúñiga Benavides to the Laredo School Board of Trustees. Mrs. Benavides was Laredo’s first woman to hold elected office and thereafter, many, many women continued to break additional barriers. In the decades that followed, Lucy published articles and delivered numerous presentations at academic conferences in Mexico, throughout Texas and the United States chronicling achievements of Laredo’s women in business, customs, religious orders, politics, and civic organizations. She served as a charter member of the Laredo Commission for Women and its preceding organization Las Mujeres, and in 1992 was recognized by the Webb County Heritage Foundation for the research she and her Honor’s Program students completed chronicling “Laredo’s Fallen Vietnam Heroes and their Families.” Additional published papers and presentations included:
Her research on Laredo women appears in the latest book on Texas Women entitled, Las Tejanas, by Teresa Palomo Acosta and Ruthe Lewin Weingarten. Her most recent project included research on Laredo’s religious women from 1868 to the present, commencing with the arrival of the Ursuline Sisters during the nineteenth century and detailing their tremendous impact on the Laredo Community.
Throughout her professional career and in retirement, Lucy remained active in several organizations including: Delta Kappa Gamma, American Association of University Women, Tuesday Music and Literature Club, Laredo Philharmonic, Hispanic Women’s Network, and the Webb County Heritage Foundation where she served on their board of directors and co-authored the Republic of the Rio Grande script for the Washington’s Birthday Celebration of Villa Antigua. She was honored and recognized for her leadership by the Laredo Commission for Women with induction into their 2014 Hall of Fame. Lucy served on the board of directors of the Mexican American Cultural Center, Advisory Committee to the Congregation of St. John, board member of the Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court Isabella the Catholic No. 683 with service as past Regent and past Deputy for the Texas State Court, Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Sultanas, Sahara Caravan No. 64 of the Alhambras, and Ursuline Associates. In addition, she served as a member and President of the International Good Neighbor Council of the local chapter, actively participating in international activities as an affiliate member of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association. Her interest in the well being of women brought her into service with the Domestic Violence Coalition and Casa Misericordia. Lucy was fortunate to be a graduate of the first Leadership Laredo class, served elected terms as a Democratic Chair and appointed Judge of Precincts 25-A, 25-C and 343 in Webb County. She read books and completed crossword puzzles daily, attended the 1997 inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton, and the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Lucy was a member of Christ the King Parish until her marriage. She received her Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) training and certificates while a student at Ursuline Academy and taught CCD throughout high school. As a college student, and a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton, Texas, she continued her CCD work, joined the Neumann Club and the Legion of Mary, where the ministerial focus was service to mentally and emotionally challenged children at the Denton State School. Once married, she and her husband were part of the newly established St. Patrick’s Parish. From its inception as a parish, she was active in the choir, CCD, Parish Council, and various committees.
For twenty five years Lucy and Alberto served as a lead couple of the local Pre-Cana team and continued their work as appointees to the Family Life Commission for the Diocese of Corpus Christi. In 1986, Lucy was appointed the only laywoman, not employed by the Diocese, to serve on the Pro-Synodal Commission. She accepted appointment from His Excellency, Bishop Rene H. Gracida, as Chair of the Committee on the Laity for “Synod 88, Becoming Body of Christ,” helping to organize activities, producing, and authoring Synod documents. Thereafter, with the establishment of the Western Vicariate of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Lucy and Alberto also accepted appointment from Bishop Gracida as Chair couple of the Family Life Commission where together they designed and implemented activities enhancing training in sacramental marriage preparation, retreats, parochial leadership, parenting, communication, and conflict management courses. They also designed and taught a Pastoral Institute Course on Family Life helping area parishioners on areas of liturgy, sacraments, theology, scripture, philosophy and ministry. Amongst their most respected invitations was their calling and inclusion as Eucharistic ministers at the Mass celebrated by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in San Antonio, Texas on September 19, 1987.
Following the establishment of the Diocese of Laredo and the Installation of His Excellency, Most Reverend James Anthony Tamayo, D.D., as first Bishop on August 9, 2000, Lucy accepted her appointment from Bishop Tamayo for service as Chair of the screening committee for a new superintendent of Catholic schools. She also served on the diocesan screening committee for the permanent diaconate and continued service work with religious orders including the Servants of Jesus and Mary who administer the Sacred Heart Children’s Home, Bethany House of Laredo founded in 1982 by the late Rev. Father Charles McNaboe, the Ursuline Sisters throughout the Central Province, and the Salesian Sisters and Priests serving in the United States and Mexico.
From January to December 2006 Lucy continued her service to Bishop Tamayo as interim director of Catholic Social Services and also served as director of the Family Life Ministry Office for the Diocese of Laredo through 2008, overseeing the inclusion of new staff members in administrative areas as well as coordinators in the offices of natural family planning, understanding sexuality programs in schools, respect life program, persons with disabilities, sponsor couples, and marriage preparation. Her love for Church history and teachings guided her work as a Master Teacher, preparing presentations for numerous groups on Church documents and teachings including Papal Apostolic Exhortations, Encyclicals, and publications from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Effective July 1, 2007, and through her retirement in 2014, Lucy served as Chancellor for the Diocese of Laredo. A position of administrative duties, her major canonical functions were to serve as the official signatore (notary) of the diocese and the official in charge of the Archives. Within the diocese, her responsibilities also included supervision of the ministries at the Pastoral Center and working closely and in consultation with the Bishop’s administrative team. As a mother and grandmother, Lucy took most seriously her critical role as the victim assistance coordinator for the safe environment program which was designed to protect all children from abuse. Her collaborative work helped strengthen this program in order to provide maximum protection for every child within the Diocese of Laredo.
Beginning in 2015 and through 2019, Lucy served as the designate At Large member of Region X to the membership on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Advisory Council, an association formed by the Conference to serve as a continuing instrument of understanding and unity assisting the bishops of the United States in their apostolic service to Christ’s Church. She also served on the board of directors of Calvary Catholic Cemetery, helping usher expansion plans for a new cemetery in the southern portion of Webb County.
Lucy understood her sacramental calling and responded with service to the church. In 2002 she and her husband were nominated to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem by Bishop Tamayo with investiture in October of that year. She received promotions in 2007 and 2012, respectively. In 2017 she received her final promotion to the rank of Dame Grand Cross, witnessed the inclusion of her late husband Alberto, KC*HS, in the Memorial Mass for deceased members of the Order, and the investiture of her son Beto and daughter in law Norma into the Order, given their nomination by their pastor, Rev. Father Paul Felix of Houston, Texas. A year later she witnessed with great humility and happiness the investiture of her daughter Cristina and son in law Daniel into the Order.
Lucy took immeasurable gratification visiting her children, traveling with her husband, sewing costumes, baking during the Christmas season, and nurturing her grandchildren – reminding each of them of their important roles, providing to them spiritual guidance and exemplary form anchored in faith and service to others. She was a bridge for many seeking resolution in their lives, refused to judge the actions of others, mentored countless souls, and worked with compassion to live out her calling, often finding the most appropriate words to share a contemplative path of light in the valleys of despair and darkness. Her reasoned and consoling temperament, her strength, courage, and firm moral character will be missed by all whom she embraced.
Lucy is preceded in death by her parents, Tomás Maria and Teresa Martínez Rodríguez; her brother José Espiridión “J.E.” and sisters, Nora Nash and Teresita del Niño Jesus; and an infant sister, Angelita. She was deeply loved by her late husband Alberto Patricio Cárdenas and his family, the descendants of Juan and Doda Martínez Cárdenas, who cherished her loving and giving spirit.
She is survived by her brothers, Tomás M. (Diana) Rodriguez, Jr. and Ricardo A. (Patricia) Rodríguez; her children, Cristina Doda (Daniel) Ramírez, Alberto Jr. (Norma Bustamante), and Maradelle Lilliam (Gilberto) Lara; grandchildren, Daniel Barrientos Jr., Nathaniel Roberto “Bobby” Barrientos, Raquel Irene Barrientos, Melissa Bernice Lara, José Gilberto Lara, Rafael José Barrientos, Daniel Candelario Ramírez, Luz Celestina Lara, Tomás Patricio Ramírez, Gilberto Saúl Lara, and Sebastián Ignacio Cárdenas; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and beloved godchildren.
Arrangements and private funeral services are under the direction of Joe Jackson North Funeral Chapel.
The public is invited to view the Mass of Christian Burial via electronic registration provided by the Funeral Home. A Rosary prior to the Mass will also be open for public participation via electronic means and will be led by Lucy’s daughter Maradelle, who follows in her footsteps as a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, Court Isabella the Catholic No. 683.
A public memorial service celebrating Lucy’s life will be held at a later time to coincide with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Lucy and Alberto’s marriage.
The family is grateful to Lucy’s many colleagues, friends and neighbors that have offered their condolences and ask that you honor her work by keeping God, family and community at one’s center, praying the Rosary, and embracing the total human dignity of life.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Chancellor Lucy R. Cárdenas Diocese of Laredo Cathedral Restoration Fund (San Agustín Cathedral, 1901 Corpus Christi St., Laredo, Texas 78043) or the Marissa C. Keene Memorial Scholarship at St. Augustine High School (1300 Galveston Street, Laredo, Texas 78040).
Soli Deo Gloria – Serviam!