Charges Shock Priest's Neighbors
They Say Cleric Accused in Theft Lived with Woman, 3 Kids in Subdivision in Spotsylvania

By Kiran Krishnamurthy
Richmond Times-Dispatch [Fredericksburg MD]
January 13, 2007

Fredericksburg -- Rodney L. Rodis' neighbors were shocked yesterday to learn the person they knew as a family man is actually a father of a different kind: a Catholic priest.

And one who is accused of stealing more than $600,000 from two churches in neighboring Louisa County.

"Totally dumbfounded," said Bev King, a former neighbor in the Sheraton Hills East subdi- vision in Spotsylvania County.

A court document listed Rodis as living with a "wife" and three children, without tying the children to Rodis. Louisa Commonwealth's Attorney R. Don Short declined to comment on why the word "wife" was on the document, but he confirmed that the court document was filled out accurately.

Neighbors say Rodis, a woman he referred to as his wife, and three children have lived together in the two-story brick home on Watson Lane for at least eight years.

They estimate the ages of the three girls as early 20s, early teens and between 5 and 8. Rodis told neighbors he was in the import-export business, they say, and he was often gone for days or weeks at a time.

"I did think there was something strange. He was always vague about what he did," said King, adding she thought he might be in the federal witness-protection program.

Another neighbor said he was never sure what Rodis did. "It all makes sense now. I would always see him leaving very early on Sunday mornings," said the man, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

Rodis generally arrived home from work in the late afternoons, typically wearing khakis and a white or blue shirt. "Never a [priest's] collar," the man added.

Rodis, 50, a Philippine citizen, faces a felony embezzlement charge accusing him of stealing donations to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bumpass and St. Jude Catholic Church in Mineral, both of which are part of the Diocese of Richmond.

Health problems led Rodis to retire as pastor of both churches in May, according to prosecutor Short.

Diocesan lawyer William Etherington estimated the amount stolen at more than $600,000 from September 2001 through October 2006. Rodis allegedly funneled some donation money to a bank account that he set up in a church's name.

In Louisa General District Court on Thursday, Rodis agreed to surrender his passport as part of an agreement in which his bond was reduced from $100,000 to $10,000. It was not immediately clear yesterday whether he had made bond and been released from Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange.

Neighbors referred to a woman named Joyce as being his wife.

The Spotsylvania County real estate assessment Web site lists a Joyce Sillador as owner of the house on Watson Lane in the Sheraton Hills East subdivision. It was assessed at $240,900 in 2006, according to the Web site.

A woman answering the door at that address answered, "Yes," when asked if Rodney Rodis lived there. Asked whether she was his wife, the woman replied, "I gotta go now," and closed the door.

At least five neighbors identified Rodis as the same man pictured in newspaper articles about the priest yesterday.

Four of the neighbors said the woman has worked as a nurse.

One neighbor recalled Rodis telling her that he planned to become mayor of his hometown in the Philippines and eventually president of that country.

The neighbor, who spoke on condition that she not be named, described the family as pleasant. The couple had remodeled the home over the years, putting in new hardwood floors, which the woman said she saw when she was invited over for Christmas and birthday gatherings.

The family also held a party when the youngest girl, then several months old, was baptized at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fredericksburg, which is part of the Diocese of Arlington and which a neighbor said the woman and children attended.

Rodis asked a neighbor he had known for a few years to be the girl's godfather, and the man accepted, neighbors said.

Rodis was ordained a priest in the Order of St. Camillus in the Philippines on March 25, 1986, and has been living in the United States since 1991.

After coming to the Diocese of Richmond, Rodis was parochial vicar at St. Mark Catholic Church in Virginia Beach for one year and then chaplain at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News for one year before going to St. Jude and Immaculate Conception.

He has been leader of the two Louisa County parishes since 1993.

John Williams, a lifelong Catholic and member of Immaculate Conception, said he assumed Rodis lived in a small rectory for the parish pastor situated near St. Jude.

Williams said he thought Rodis was the best priest he'd ever encountered. He has a picture of Rodis -- hobbled by a stroke and walking with a cane -- with Williams' two children on Rodis' last day as pastor of the parish, he said.

One neighbor recalled Rodis suffering health problems, but neither that neighbor nor another close neighbor recalled seeing Rodis with a cane.

Williams said he can't imagine Rodis in jail or leading a double life. "I've never heard one negative word about him," he said.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond also was surprised to hear about Rodis' living arrangements, said Etherington, the Richmond diocesan lawyer.

The Most Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo, bishop of the Richmond Diocese, has already suspended Rodis' faculties, which means the priest is not allowed to represent the diocese or perform priestly duties, such as celebrating Mass.

All priests in the diocese are paid the same, $18,000 a year plus a car allowance and room and board, Etherington said.

Rodis would have taken a vow of poverty when he entered the Order of St. Camillus, which Etherington said the priest quit in 2002 when he became attached to the diocese.

Yesterday, a girl's purple bicycle, a pink plastic playset and yellow slide sat in the driveway of the Watson Lane home. The front yard was adorned with lawn ornaments and angel statues. Three vehicles were parked in the driveway: a late model silver Toyota Highlander, a red Ford Escort station wagon and a blue-gray Toyota 4Runner with a window sticker reading, "90 % ANGEL."

"He is very diligent about his yard," said Bob Hagan, a neighbor who also is president of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hagan, who said he waved to Rodis in passing, said the family seemed nice enough. "I figure the religious issues are for him to sort out and the legal issues are being sorted out for him," he said.

Contact staff writer Kiran Krishnamurthy at or (540) 371-4792.


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