By Jorge Dominguez
More than 400 mourners came to pray at the memorial Mass for Brooklyn priest Father Dagoberto Noguera, who was brutally murdered March 10 in Santa Marta, Colombia.
Father Noguera was born in Ecuador and educated in Colombia where he was ordained June 29, 1985. He came to Brooklyn in 1990 and was incardinated as a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese in 2002. He was released from active duty for medical reasons in 2014 and was living in Colombia at the time of his murder.
Like Jesus, “he suffered an unjust, brutal, tragic death,” said Father Robert Czok in his homily, preached March 23 in Spanish and English at St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Church, Greenpoint, where Father Noguera served from 2004 to 2012. Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros was the main celebrant. Father Kavungal Davy, C.M.I., pastor, and six other priests concelebrated.
Confronted with such a horrible act, Father Czok said, we look for answers, but we have to realize that the answer to suffering and pain is always the crucified Christ.
Ernesto Cordero, a parishioner of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus for 35 years, was close to Father Dagoberto.
“He was always helping us, pushing us to do better,” Cordero said. “He would sit down on the steps of the church and greet everybody with a smile. He was a very special priest.
“This has been such a shock, it was so unexpected. He was planning to come back next month.”
Father Noguera was allegedly tied, beaten and strangulated by two strangers who entered his house in Colombia to rob him. It has been reported that his attackers were two Venezuelan refugees living in Santa Marta. No arrests have been made in the case.
During the last months, Father Noguera, who was wheelchair-bound, had been distributing food among the Venezuelan refugees living in his neighborhood.
“Father Dagoberto was here for more than six years,” Father Davy said. “He left the parish in 2012 and then every year he used to come here to meet with the Hispanic community; and he would celebrate Mass with me and then go out to visit the sick. And he was always there whenever they needed him.
“He was very instrumental in bringing all the members in the Hispanic community together. I was looking forward to seeing him this month of April, he was planning to visit us then, but he couldn’t make it.”
At the end of Mass, Bishop Cisneros paid tribute to his brother priest.
“He imitated Christ up to the last moment, because Jesus died a violent death,” the bishop said. “Up to his last moment he was a living testimony, a true testimony of Jesus’ love.”
After the Mass, Liliana Noguera, a niece of Father Noguera, gave a touching testimony about her uncle. Both Noguera and her husband were visibly emotional.
“I feel blessed because I was the one in our family who was able to be closer to him for years and know him well as a person and as a priest,” said Noguera. “He was totally committed to the Church and to service people.”
Ann Mitchell, a parishioner of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus, said that she knew Father Noguera very well since the time he was at the parish.
“He was a wonderful man,” she said. “I speak English, he spoke ‘Colombian,’ (but) every time I spoke with him, he understood me. He was very good to me.”
Also see: Fr. Dagoberto’s Legacy