Thousands Honor Archbishop Fiorenza’s Memory and Social Justice Advocacy



The hearse carrying the wooden casket of retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston is processed by Sacred Heart Houston Co-Cathedral following his funeral Sept. 29, 2022. The co-cathedral was built under the guidance of Archbishop Fiorenza and guidance. (CNS Photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)


HOUSTON (CNS) – Over the course of three days, thousands honored the memory and legacy of retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, longtime Bishop of Galveston-Houston, who died Sept. 19 in Houston at the age of 91.

His funeral on September 29 was officiated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. The homilist was Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who led the American Episcopal Conference alongside Archbishop Fiorenza in the early 2000s.

“He loved all races, all cultures, all backgrounds and stood proudly alongside civil rights activists,” Cardinal Gregory said in his homily. “Even in his 90s, Joe was completely responsible for his life. His infirmities did not diminish his spirit.

Cardinal Gregory said Archbishop Fiorenza fulfilled both the role of brother and minister of the Gospel “much better than he could ever have imagined.”

He also said the Archbishop “saw Christ in the poor, the disenfranchised, the prisoners, the physically and mentally handicapped” and that he was “brave enough” to see Christ in the people the world “often chooses to ignore”.

He pointed out that the Archbishop was “born and became a priest at a time when segregation was a sanctioned tradition in many parts of our country. Joe, however, did not personally condone it or see the justification for it. Her big heart welcomed and loved people of all races, cultures and backgrounds. His pastoral voice was an important source of strength for those who worked with him in the area of ​​Catholic social teachings. He proudly stood by those who worked for civil rights – even when it was unpopular and unappreciated.

At the end of the Mass, concelebrated by several Cardinals and Archbishops, Cardinal DiNardo said Archbishop Fiorenza “has pleated the world every day and expanded it and made those actions resonate with so many others.”

“He was a genuine man and a faithful follower,” he added. “He took his vocation as bishop of the Church seriously. He knew that being a bishop meant working with many people, just as the disciples walked together and followed the Lord Jesus.

After the funeral mass, the Archbishop was buried in a private service at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.

Earlier in the week, family and friends met the Fiorenza family at a solemn reception of the body of Archbishop Fiorenza Sept. 27 at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral.

The following day, members of the clergy, men and women religious, teachers, students, families and other members of the community paid their respects to the late Archbishop at the Co-Cathedral while he was in state. Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro of Galveston-Houston presided over the Vigil Mass that evening, which was broadcast live.

Calling Archbishop Fiorenza “an icon of the Good Shepherd,” Italian-born Bishop Dell’Oro recounted in his homily how Bishop Fiorenza invited him to dinner for his first Christmas in Houston after arriving in 1992. “He not only cooked dinner, but served us as well.

Bishop Dell’Oro also shared his visit with Bishop Fiorenza before his death.

“First, as I was leaving, he asked me for a blessing,” the bishop said. “Then, as I thought there was the possibility of never seeing him again…I asked him to bless me, which he did. (I’m) probably the last to receive his blessing.

With a life that took him around the world in service to the church, Bishop Fiorenza lived by his motto, “Thy kingdom come,” bringing him into close partnership with many women religious, regardless their charism or their ministry, said Sister Francesca Kearns, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

“He inspired us to see the vision God has for the world and encouraged us to work in harmony so that the needy can experience God’s love and embrace the dignity God has bestowed upon us all” , said Sister Kearns, vicar of the religious. in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “He conveyed the feeling that all our charisms merge in the promotion of the Kingdom of God.”

Archbishop Fiorenza’s executive administrative assistant for 15 years, Blanca M. Arriaga Flores, attended the funeral mass in Houston after traveling from Mexico City, where she recently retired.

“He was a man who inspired me with his humility and his patience, with his sense of justice for the less fortunate,” she said.

“I know he suffered a lot when he knew he had to leave his office for good. This was the place where he felt at home. You could only see him at his desk reading his diary to realize how comfortable he felt there.

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Ramos is an editor and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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