remembering archbishop Fiorenza
A beloved Houston figure of faith has passed away. Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza died Monday, September 19, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced. He was 91.
Fiorenza served as bishop of the diocese of Galveston-Houston from 1985 to 2006. He was made an archbishop in 2004 when Pope John Paul II elevated the status of the diocese to an archdiocese. Throughout his priesthood, his leadership of the archdiocese and well into his retirement, Fiorenza was known as a passionate advocate for social justice.
“Archbishop Fiorenza was known to be a champion of civil rights and a tireless worker in overcoming the presence of racism in our community.," said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston in a statement. "He was also known as a great promoter of genuine renewal in the church, and in making the teachings of the Second Vatican Council known."
Joseph Anthony Fiorenza was born January 25, 1931 in Beaumont, Texas, to Anthony and Grace Fiorenza. His father was a Sicilian immigrant and his mother the daughter of Sicilian immigrants. The second of four sons, he attended Beaumont's St. Anthony High School. He graduated at 16, having skipped a grade and enrolled in St. Mary's Seminary in La Porte.
Fiorenza was ordained in May, 1954 and his first post was to Houston's Queen of Peace, where he served as assistant pastor. Three years later, he served as a professor of medical ethics at Sacred Heart Dominican College in Houston, along with serving as the chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in downtown Houston.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he served in parishes around the Houston area, as well as taking positions with the diocese itself. In 1965, he took part in the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, joining other prominent Catholics from around the country to lift their voices for freedom.
Pope John Paul II appointed Fiorenza bishop of San Angelo in 1979. His consecration was held on October 25 in San Angelo's Sacred Heart Cathedral. Five years later, he would return to Houston, to lead the diocese and bishop and later, archbishop. He retired in February 2006 and was succeeded by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.
A lush Harris County park in west Houston bears his name.
In Houston, Fiorenza will be as much remembered for his dedication to his faith as his considerable achievements and tenure.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to work for such a godly man who always fought for the rights of the poor, marginalized, immigrants and those otherwise prejudiced against," Rebecca Torrellas, managing editor of the Texas Catholic Herald tells CultureMap. "He prioritized social justice beyond his retirement with passion and determination. What an absolutely amazing legacy, and such a giant loss to the city of Houston. I will miss him terribly."
As of press time, funeral arrangements were still pending. The archdiocese said it would release details once they are finalized.