Auxiliary Bishop Also Served Catholic Charities, Catholic Migration Office and Hispanic Ministry
Retired Auxiliary Bishop Rene A.Valero, who had been living in retirement at Bishop Mugavero Residence, Douglaston, died Sunday, March 10, at Long Island Jewish Hospital.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, March 20, at 10:30 a.m. in the chapel at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will be the main celebrant.
A Vigil Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Raymond Chappetto at Blessed Sacrament Church, Jackson Heights, on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Bishop Valero was named an auxiliary bishop on Oct. 4, 1980 along with Auxiliary Bishops Anthony J. Bevilacqua and Joseph M. Sullivan.
He was the youngest of three sons of Venezuelan parents – the late Cesar and Maria (Cordova) Valero, both natives of Caracas. Born in the West Harlem section of Manhattan on Aug. 15, 1930, he attended St. Joseph’s School there and Sacred Heart Mission House, Girard, Pa., before beginning seminary training at Cathedral College, Brooklyn.
He completed his preparation for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I., and was ordained June 2, 1956, by Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy in St. James Pro-Cathedral, Brooklyn.
His first assignment was to St. Michael–St. Edward’s parish in Fort Greene for a year, followed by three years at St. Agatha’s, Sunset Park.
In 1960, he began studies in social work at Fordham University School of Social Service, earning a master’s in 1962. For the next 12 years, he served at Catholic Charities, first at the Family Service Office and then as Kings County director before becoming the first director for the Office for the Aging.
From 1974 until 1980, he was coordinator of the diocesan Hispanic Apostolate, during which time he also served as chairman of the board for the Northeast Hispanic Pastoral Center. In June 1979, he was named the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, Jackson Heights and served there until 2005. He was also Regional Bishop of Queens.
Fifty Years of Ministry
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said, “I join with the faithful throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn in praying for and remembering former Auxiliary Bishop Rene Valero. A Manhattan native, Bishop Valero served in active ministry for nearly 50 years, a period of devout service that included 25 years of service as Auxiliary Bishop.
“Upon his elevation to Auxiliary Bishop in 1980 by Pope John Paul II, Bishop Valero made history in becoming the first Hispanic to serve in such a role within the Brooklyn Diocese. At many levels, in his service as priest and pastor, through his leadership with the Catholic Migration Office and the Office of Aging for Catholic Charities, and as Auxiliary Bishop, it is certain that Bishop Valero’s legacy will live on in Brooklyn and Queens for many years.”
The episcopal ordination of Bishops Bevilacqua, Sullivan and Valero took place Nov. 24, 1980 in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, Sunset Park. Bishop Francis J. Mugavero was the ordaining prelate, assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Charles R. Mulrooney and Bishop John J. Snyder of St. Augustine, Fla., and a former auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.
Bishop Valero remained as pastor of Blessed Sacrament after his Episcopal ordination, then in 1983 he was appointed by Bishop Mugavero to direct the Catholic Migration and Refugee Office, a position he held until 1991.
Shortly after Bishop Thomas V. Daily became Brooklyn’s sixth bishop in 1990, he established the diocesan Committee on Racial Harmony and appointed Bishop Valero to chair it.
Under his leadership, the committee has elevated consciousness on the evil effects of racism by sponsoring then-annual convocations featuring prominent speakers, conducting parish hearings and arranging discussions in parochial schools.
Mario Paredes, former director of the Northeast Pastoral Center for Hispanics, said, “With immense sadness, I received the painful news of Bishop Valero’s passing. He was a great friend and I always regarded him as a true gentlemen and an exemplary priest.
“After the First Hispanic National Encuentro held in Washington D.C. in 1972, there were proposals for all diocese to celebrate regional and diocesan ‘encuentros.’ The first diocesan ‘encuentro’ was celebrated in the Diocese of Brooklyn in June, 1974 with the title “I Care About the First Hispanic Encuentro.’ One of the organizers of this meeting was Bishop Valero, who was working at the time for Catholic Charities Brooklyn, where he was the director for the Office for the Aging. It was at this ‘encuentro’ that Bishop Valero became really known as a Hispanic priest of Venezuelan roots, born and raised in Manhattan, in Holy Agony parish.
“Bishop Valero will be remembered for his extraordinary human qualities – his kindness, his warm, welcoming character, his service and his professional qualifications. And also for his skill to organize new pastoral programs and infuse them with life, and for his constant support for the church institutions. But above all, he was a kind and loving priest, always with a smile in his face and a great affection for everybody.”
After his retirement at the age of 75, Bishop Valero maintained his residence at Blessed Sacrament parish, Jackson Heights, which he called “the hub of the Hispanic presence in North Queens.”
A former member of the board of Catholic Relief Services, serving on it for six years in the 1980s, he re-established formal contact with the U.S. bishops’ overseas aid agency by accepting invitations to preach at Masses on its behalf at parishes in the U.S. He travelled to Houston, San Diego and Hawthorne, Calif.
“I told CRS that in my retirement I’ll go wherever in the country they want to send me,” he said, adding that the agency has indicated that it values his ability to speak Spanish along with his knowledge of its global work.
Bishop Valero said he prepared for retirement by gaining valuable insights about from his work with senior priests. “Early on, some were affected very hard by the idea of retirement,” he recalled. In time, he said, they came to understand that being relieved of administrative duties did not mean they could no longer be productive as priests.
“That experience helped me understand retirement,” he said.
Bishop Valero once said that events like Confirmations “have given me a tremendous picture of the ethnic richness” of Brooklyn and Queens. “Each parish has a personality all its own.”
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros said that Bishop Valero “was a giant in the Hispanic ministry of the diocese. I’m sure all of us are going to miss him.”
“He was always available to the people,” said Bishop Cisneros. “I happened to be his secretary during Confirmations. He always had time for the families, not just the boy or the girl who was being confirmed. He was always available to them. What a great example to all priests and bishops because of his availability, his gentleness and his humanity.”
Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, Vicar General, remembered him as “a very, very kind man, very witty and very entertaining.”
“He always had good stories,” recalled Bishop Chappetto. “He always had a lot of joy to share with us.”