Deacon Eliseo Melendez Vera, 61; served Hispanic community

By Rob Cullivan/Catholic Courier    |    01.04.2005
Category: Obituaries


Deacon Eliseo Melendez Vera, who served the Hispanic community within the Diocese of Rochester during the 1980s, died Nov. 29, 2004, in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was 61.

His funeral took place on Dec. 1 -- Deacon Melendez's birthday -- in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Bishop Matthew H. Clark will preside at a 7 p.m. memorial service for Deacon Melendez on Saturday, Feb. 26, at Rochester's Corpus Christi Church, 864 E. Main St.

Deacon Melendez was a member of the diocese's first class of permanent deacons, and was ordained at Sacred Heart Cathedral in 1982. Father Larry Tracy, a longtime minister in the diocese's Spanish-speaking community, was among those who instructed Deacon Melendez during his diaconal formation.

"He was a solicitous and conscientious student," Father Tracy said.

From May 1982 to Jan. 1981, Deacon Melendez served with the diocese's Office of the Spanish Apostolate and at Rochester's St. Michael's Church. Father Vincent P. Panepinto, currently pastor of Corpus Christi, served with Deacon Melendez at St. Michael's, and recalled him fondly.

"(Deacon Melendez) was very helpful to me in understanding the culture of Hispanics," Father Panepinto said. "He would repeat often to me that it was important that I would speak Spanish, but much more important that I understand the culture. "

Father Panepinto described Deacon Melendez deacon as compassionate, noting that the deacon helped him when his mother was dying.

"I felt that I was not emotionally strong enough to bring her Communion for the last time," Father Panepinto said. "(The deacon) and his wife came to the hospital with the Eucharist as viaticum and allowed me to be prayerfully present to her at that time."

Father Tracy added that Deacon Melendez was considered a good counselor, and Father Panepinto said he was known for his quick and gentle sense of humor.

"No sooner did he enter a gathering when that humor began to express itself keeping all with smiles." Father Panepinto said. "I don't remember that humor ever being directed against anyone."

In Jan. 1991, Deacon Melendez left the Rochester Diocese for the Ogdensburg Diocese, to serve as a chaplain at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemorra. He left that ministry in Nov. 1999 for reasons of health.

Deacon Melendez is survived by seven children and 10 grandchildren. His daughter Carmen Ruiz of Rochester said he was very devoted to his ministry, as well as to his children and grandchildren.

"He was very loved by others because of his dedication," she said.

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