By Tim Harfmann
As Robert Soto prayed next to Bishop Rene Valero’s casket, he had fond memories of the Brooklyn auxiliary bishop. “All my memories of Bishop Valero? They’re all outstanding memories. And it’s vivid in my mind. I can still hear him doing the sermons,” said Soto. He is an usher at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Bishop Valero passed away on Sunday, March 10th. He was 88 years old. Hundreds of Catholics visited Blessed Sacrament Church on March 19th to say their final goodbyes. That evening, Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto will celebrate the Vigil Mass, with other bishops, priests and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan expected to attend.
Bishop Valero was born in 1930 and raised in New York. The son of Venezuelan immigrants, he served the Brooklyn diocese for over five decades. One of many assignments was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church. “He was a wonderful person, a person you could talk. And he would listen to you and give you the best advice,” said Marlene Paucar, one of bishop’s former parishioners.
Valero went on to become the Diocese of Brooklyn’s first bishop of Hispanic heritage, later working with Catholic Charities, then picked to head the Catholic Migration Office.
He was also appointed to led the Hispanic apostolate, ministering to Hispanic Catholics throughout Brooklyn and Queens. In 2009, Bishop Valero told Currents News that was an assignment he held dear; “I was very grateful to the Lord for that, because that was the beginning of a real creation of a Hispanic apostolate.”
Even after his retirement in 2005, Bishop Valero had a connection to Blessed Sacrament Church. He returned to Jackson Heights in 2012 when the parish renamed a reception hall after him. Bishop Valero told Currents News what meant more to him was seeing his parishioners; “Part of the priest’s life is to serve His people in a parish, and especially being a pastor. I miss those days very much, but I’m glad to come back to see them once more.”
And Blessed Sacrament parishioners were glad to see to see him once more — to pay their final respects. “Now that he’s passed, of course it hurts; but it’s also kind of gladness, thinking that he is, at last, resting in peace,” said Paucar.
A Mass of Christian burial for Bishop Valero will be celebrated at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens tomorrow, March 20th at 10:30AM.