BROOKLYN, New York — Retired Auxiliary Bishop Rene A. Valero of Brooklyn, the diocese’s first bishop of Hispanic heritage, died March 10 at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He was 88.
Retired since 2005, he was living at the Bishop Mugavero Residence in Douglaston before his death.
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said he joined with the faithful through the diocese “in praying for and remembering” Valero, who served in active ministry for nearly 50 years, including 25 years 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,” DiMarzio said in a statement. “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.”
A vigil Mass will be March 19 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jackson Heights in the borough of Queens. Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, vicar general, will be the celebrant.
The funeral Mass for Valero will be celebrated March 20 at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, which also is in Queens. Burial will be in the Bishops Crypt at the center.
The youngest of three sons of Venezuelan parents — Caesar and the late Maria (Cordova) Valero, both born in Caracas — Rene Arnold Valero was born in the West Harlem section of Manhattan Aug. 15, 1930. He attended St. Joseph’s School there and Sacred Heart Mission House in Girard, Pennsylvania, before beginning seminary training at Cathedral College in Brooklyn.
He completed his preparation for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York, and was ordained June 2, 1956, by Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy in Brooklyn’s St. James Cathedral. 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 Parish in Bay Ridge.
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 Spanish Apostolate, during which 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 in Jackson Heights.
On Oct. 7, 1980, St. John Paul II appointed him, along with Fordham. Anthony Msgr. J and Father Joseph Bevilacqua. Sullivan, as an auxiliary bishop, the announcement made Oct. 7.
The episcopal ordination for the three took place Nov. 24, 1980, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Bay Ridge. Brooklyn Bishop Francis M. J was the ordaining prelate, assisted by Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Charles R. Mugavero and Bishop John Mulrooney. Snyder of St. Augustine, Florida.
Valero remained as pastor of Blessed Sacrament after his episcopal ordination, then in 1983, he was appointed by J 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 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. He also was vicar for racial concerns.
Reflecting on the evolving ethnic and racial mix in the diocese, Valero once said: “Only a welcoming attitude and an understanding of the people who will move into our neighborhoods will make for an easy and peaceful absorption of newcomers.”
Among his diocesan duties, he also was vicar for the elderly and regional bishop for the 56 parishes of the diocese’s Queens North Vicariate.
In addition to his diocesan responsibilities, he also served on several U.S. bishops’ committees, including as chairman of the Committee for the Church in Latin America.