Diocesan News

‘From the First Day I Came Here, I Felt Welcomed’

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio noted that the five priests are “tried and true” servants in the diocese. Standing, from left: Father Baltazar Sánchez, Father Osmín Vargas, Father Israel Perez, Father Juan Agustin Orellana, and Father Romel Peñafiel. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

Incardinated Priests Find a New Home in Diocese of Brooklyn

WINDSOR TERRACE — Father Israel Perez is marking a lot of new beginnings in his life these days. 

Having recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of his ordination, Father Perez learned he is starting a new post as administrator of Holy Child Jesus Church, Richmond Hill. And he’s added one more milestone: He is now a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“Officially, we are a part of this amazing diocese. I am grateful to God,” Father Perez said on June 30, the day he and four of his fellow priests were incardinated in a ceremony at the Chancery on Prospect Park West.

Incardinated priests are men who belong to other dioceses but serve here in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Then, under incardination, the bishop of their original diocese releases them from his jurisdiction and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio agrees to accept them. The priests sign paperwork and recite a pledge of faithfulness. At that point, they officially become priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Along with Father Perez, the newly incardinated priests are Father Jose Agustin Orellana, I.V.E., administrator of St. Catharine of Alexandria Church, Borough Park; Father Romel P. Peñafiel, parochial vicar for St. Andrew Avellino Church, Flushing; Father Baltazar Sánchez, Sch.P., administrator of St. Mary Gate of Heaven Church, Ozone Park; and Father Osmín T. Vargas, S.D.B., parochial vicar for Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Corona.

“Most of you have been here for a while, so you’re tried and true,” Bishop DiMarzio told the five priests. 

While the process of incardination can be lengthy — involving lots of paperwork between dioceses in different countries — it is worth it, the bishop said. 

“The process takes time. It can be a bit frustrating. Sometimes documents are late. At the end of the day, you’re part of the diocese. We depend on you and the work that you do,” he said.

All five priests are immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries that will now be serving here in what is known as “The Diocese of Immigrants” due to its large number of foreign-born parishioners. 

Father Perez was born and raised in Cuba, Father Orellana is from Chile, Father Penafiel hails from Ecuador, Father Sanchez was born in Mexico, and Father Vargas is a native of the Dominican Republic.

“Five men — five different cultures. How do you like that for variety? That is Brooklyn!” said retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, who came to the chancery to congratulate the newly incardinated. 

“We have different cultures and different countries. But we are all one faith,” Father Penafiel said.

The priests were briefed on rules and regulations by Msgr. Steven Aguggia, the chancellor of the diocese, and Vice Chancellor Jasmine Salazar.

Following the ceremony, Father Peñafiel was heading straight from the chancery to his new assignment at St. Andrew of Avellino. 

“Today is exciting. I was appointed today,” he said. He was in the Diocese of Loja in 2010 and came to the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2015. 

“I have been here six years already,” Father Peñafiel said. “When I was young, I felt a curiosity about the church. I was curious how the priests lived. I went and talked with my pastor. That helped me decide to be a priest.”

Father Perez recalled growing up in Cuba and entering a Catholic Church for the first time when he was 19. He walked into Our Lady of Charity Church in Havana and immediately felt at home. 

“I received my first Communion at 20. At 22, I went into the seminary. I was ordained in 2001. Now I am celebrating my 20th anniversary as a priest,”  he said. “And today, I was appointed administrator in Richmond Hill. Everything feels like an amazing anniversary.”

Father Perez came to work in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2014: “From the first day I came here, I have felt welcomed.”

Father Sanchez, who is also the coordinator of the Ministry to Mexican Immigrants, is marking a major milestone. 

“I am celebrating my 25th anniversary this year,” he said. He was ordained into the Piarist Fathers in 1996 and arrived in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2018. 

“I am happy to be here. I wanted to become a priest because I saw the seminarians in my hometown. When I saw them, I wanted to be like them,” he said. “They had such joy. Looking at them touched me and made me want to become a priest. Now I feel like I belong to this country, to this diocese, to the people of this diocese.”

Father Orellana is originally from Chile but was ordained in Argentina in 2003. He came to work in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2009. 

“Today is a most important day in my life. I am very happy here,” he said. “I am 18 years a priest. For 14 years I have been here. I know the priests, I know the bishop.” 

He said he has wanted to be a priest ever since he was a little boy. “When I was 7, I saw the priest celebrate the Mass. I was not a good student but when I saw the Mass, it was beautiful,” he said.

In addition to his role at St. Catharine of Alexandria, Father Orellana is the spiritual director of the Cursillo Movement.

Father Vargas said he looked forward to incardination for a long time. 

“For me, It’s a good thing. I have been here nine years in the diocese. I feel very happy to be here,” he said. He was ordained in 2003. 

“When I was in school some of the priests motivated me. That is when I knew I wanted to be a priest. I was 16 years old,” he recalled. 

He came to work in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2012. 

“It has been the joy of my life to be here and to serve the people of the diocese,” he said.