By Sister Ave Clark
On Friday, Oct. 7, I was honored to be at the dedication ceremony of the Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence in Astoria.
Catholic Charities of the Brooklyn Diocese has provided a beautiful, modern affordable residence for seniors and those seniors who have experienced being homeless. I went with Mary and Gerry Purcell — Mary is Bishop Valero’s niece.
Bishop Valero was a good friend to me. I thought this day was truly a holy contradiction that the residence would bear his name.
Bishop Valero was never one to want his name in lights. He did many kind deeds humbly and quietly. However, I truly believe that Bishop Valero was smiling in heaven that his name was being shared at a residence that will give a good, safe, and caring home to seniors.
As part of the dedication ceremony, prayers were shared by Bishop Robert Brennan and Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio. Many fine remarks were shared by Catholic Charities workers and dedicated NYC Housing representatives, politicians, and bank supporters.
It was shared that 22,000-plus applied for the 102 spaces available. This tells us that our society and churches together need to address affordable housing needs.
There were two extra people listed as speakers on the dedication program. One was a new resident named Norman.
Norman took his walker to the podium and looked out at all of us in the audience and shared that he had been homeless and that the new residence was now his “home.” It brought him peace and happiness.
You could feel his happiness. He had a wonderful smile. Again, I could imagine Bishop Valero’s kind smile and blessing Norman’s heart and telling him, “Welcome to your new home. Enjoy it.”
The other person to share was Mary Purcell — Bishop Valero’s niece. She spoke of her dear uncle as a person of deep humility and kindness and how he lived the Gospel message by sharing hope, justice, and peace. Again, I can envision Bishop Valero just bowing his head in prayer for all the goodness that will be shared at this new Catholic Charities residence.
At the end of the dedication ceremony, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the front entrance of the residence. I watched as Norman and Mary held the red ribbon as it was being cut, and all in attendance were cheering and clapping. Norman and Mary were looking at each other with big smiles of joy.
Having a home, a roof over your head, a good meal, and feeling safe is very often taken for granted.
I have thought of that wonderful day of dedicating a new residence as a holy reminder of how we are called to act with justice, love tenderly, serve one another, and walk humbly with God.
I thought of Bishop Valero and how he engaged people, especially seniors in need, with such respect, charity, and compassion. I thought of all the people working to build this residence with building setbacks. They did not give up on getting the new residence opened.
I thought of Bishop Valero’s family, especially his niece Mary who felt so honored that her uncle’s priestly life would continue to serve and be a sign of joy and hope, compassion, and great caring peace.
I thought of Norman, a new resident who feels so much peace and happiness in his new home. I am sure his joy will be multiplied as he welcomes more new neighbors at the residence.
The dedication day was not just about a new building.
To me, the day was a holy reminder about how we are all called to live the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and build a City of God where all are welcome to be part of God’s plan to love one another.
Sister Ave Clark, O.P., is an Amityville Dominican sister and coordinator of Heart to Heart Ministry