By Tim Harfmann
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio presided over the Mass of Christian burial on Wednesday, March 20th. Clergy, family and friends said their final goodbyes to Auxiliary Bishop Rene Valero – the first bishop of Hispanic heritage in the Brooklyn diocese. “His primary concern was the welfare of people. And as the first Hispanic auxiliary, it was really wonderful that he was able to take care of people. They could look up to him and say that he was one of their own,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Bishop Valero was the son of Venezuelan immigrants and served the Brooklyn diocese for nearly a half-century. “He had a great sympathy for those people who were working their way, learning what it was like to be here… not only in the country, but also in the church,” said Bishop Emil Wcela. He witnessed Valero’s service to immigrants first-hand, as the two knew each other for nearly seven decades.
Bishop Valero ministered in parishes and led the Catholic Migration Office. He later served the elderly while working with Catholic Charities. “He gave his heart and service with great joy and wonderful compassion. That, for me, is the gift I’m going to carry on with me,” said Sister Ave Clark. She was a close friend of Bishop Varelo’s.
After Mass at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens clergy and Bishop Valero’s family gathered in the crypt, which located under the chapel. That is Bishop Valero’s final resting place, next to other bishops of Brooklyn and Queens.
Valero died on Sunday, March 10th at the age of 88. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for years, but didn’t let it affect his ministry. “He suffered with great patience. He never complained. Some days he was great, some days he wasn’t,” said Bishop DiMarzio, “But he made the best of it, and I think his legacy will be one of great caring for the people of the diocese.” Even during his final days, he cared for others. Sister Clark visited Valero to pray with him — just days before he died. “When I left that day, I look at him and said, ‘Bishop, you’re my friend forever. I love you.’ and he looked up at me and said, ‘me too.’ Those are memories you don’t forget,” said Sister Clark. An outpouring of love and prayers as the beloved bishop’s legacy was remembered.