Brooklyn Diocese Mourns Loss of First Hispanic Pastor

Tags: Currents, Bishop Alfonso Cabezas, Diocese of Brooklyn, Diocese of Immigrants, Funeral, Hispanic, Hispanic Catholics

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Msgr. Perfecto Vazquez, a retired priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, at St. Teresa Church, Woodside, Nov. 13.

He died Nov. 9 at Elmhurst General Hospital after suffering a stroke. He would have been 86 in December.

Msgr. Vazquez was the first priest of Hispanic heritage to be appointed a pastor in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

A native of the Galicia region of northwest Spain, he discerned his call to religious life at a young age. He attended the Benedictine Abbey of Samos, Spain, and studied theology at the Monastery of Samos.

He was ordained a Benedictine priest on July 29, 1956 in Lugo, Spain.

In 1962, he came to the Brooklyn Diocese to study for his master’s degree in math at St. John’s University, Jamaica. At the time, he was assisting at St. Agnes, Carroll Gardens.

After graduation, he was a teacher and administrator at Colegio San Benito, Puerto Rico, but returned three times to assist at St. Agnes, before finally relocating to Brooklyn and becoming a full-time assistant at St. Agnes in 1970.

He was incardinated into the Brooklyn Diocese on Jan. 20, 1975, and was named a monsignor in 1982.

He was appointed pastor of Visitation B.V.M., Red Hook, on May 25, 1975, and became the diocese’s first Hispanic pastor. He served at Visitation for 11 years.

He then served as pastor at St. Agnes, 1986-93, and Guardian Angel, Brighton Beach, 1993-08.

As a senior active priest, he served as spiritual director of the diocesan Cursillo Movement, led pilgrimages and lived in residence at St. Teresa parish, Woodside.

Bishop Alfonso Cabezas, C.M., was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass.

Special concelebrants included Msgrs. Denis Herron, who preached the homily, and Steven Ferrari, and Fathers Thomas Pettei and John Harrington.

More than 50 other priests concelebrated Mass for the standing-room-only congregation.

Eyes on Heaven

Msgr. Herron, who once lived with Msgr. Vazquez, described him as someone “who had his eyes on Heaven and his feet on the ground.”

“I was always impressed by his energy,” said Msgr. Herron. “He reminded me of the energizer bunny. He never stopped, always moving, always active. I don’t think he ever really retired.

“He knew who he was. He was a pastor, who delighted in his sheep. He knew how his sheep acted and reacted.

“I often asked what would give him that energy. I think it had to do with his purity of heart. You begin to come to the energy of God by that pure heart that never stops loving.

Humble and Joyful

“He was humble and joyful, not joy without the cross, but joy through the cross.”

Msgr. Herron said that he loved listening to all of Msgr. Vazquez’s stories. “He had stories and he would go and on and on, and he would get happier as he went on. But everyone enjoyed the stories even if you didn’t understand a word he said.”

Bishop Cabezas described Msgr. Vazquez as “a great guy.”

“That’s why we all are here this morning – to wish him a Happy Resurrection,” said the Vincentian prelate.

Msgr. Vazquez is survived by his brother Manuel of Whitestone.

Burial was in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village.