Monsignor Nelson J. Perez, former pastor at St. William Catholic Church in Lawndale, last week was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Rockville Centre in New York.
Perez, 50, served as pastor at St. William from 2002–2009.
“I am humbled, but filled with great joy and gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for calling me to serve the church as a bishop,” he said. “It is certainly not what I thought would happen to me on the day of my ordination. God’s ways and thoughts are not ours, but I know and trust that His ways are always better than ours. I thank God for this awesome privilege. I also want to express my deep gratitude to Archbishop Charles Chaput for his wonderful support and fatherly care, especially upon my appointment.”
Perez, who’ll turn 51 on Saturday, was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1989. He was founding director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization, served as adjunct professor at La Salle University for 14 years, was a board member of the Philadelphia Protestant Home and Lawndale Neighborhood Revitalization Project and has been heavily involved in ministry to Hispanic Catholics.
“Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of Bishop-elect Perez continues a long and generous tradition of service to the universal church by priests from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. “It also demonstrates the Holy Father’s confidence in Bishop-elect Perez, who has served our archdiocese and its people with faithful devotion for many years. Bishop-elect Perez has a joyful and down-to-earth personality, an obvious love for the priesthood and a tireless devotion to his ministry. Knowing how much he is loved by those he serves makes the sacrifice of losing him to another diocese all the greater.”
The announcement was made Friday at a news conference in Rockville Centre.
Perez celebrated Mass that morning at St. Agnes Cathedral. He will be ordained a bishop on July 25 at St. Agnes by Bishop William F. Murphy. Chaput will be a co-consecrator.
Perez was born in Miami. He attended public schools in North Jersey. He graduated with a psychology degree from Montclair State University and taught at a Catholic elementary school in Puerto Rico before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
In 1986–87, he was assistant to the chaplain at the former Philadelphia State Hospital (Byberry).
His first assignment after ordination to the priesthood was as parochial vicar at St. Ambrose, in Olney, from 1989–93.
In 2002, he replaced the popular and long-serving Monsignor James E. Mortimer at St. William. Mortimer, who at the time called Perez a “brilliant young man,” recently celebrated his 60th year in the priesthood and remains pastor emeritus at St. William.
After leaving St. William, Perez has been pastor of St. Agnes in West Chester.
Monsignor Robert J. Brennan, the vicar general for Rockville Centre, was also appointed auxiliary bishop for that diocese, which consists of 1.4 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“I wish to express my fervent thanks to the Holy Father for responding so quickly to my request for two auxiliary bishops to help me pastor the fifth-largest diocese in our nation,” Bishop Murphy said. “God has blessed this diocese with good and holy priests and now two auxiliary bishops, one a native son, the second, a Cuban-American who will bring his many gifts and his Latino language, culture and heritage to enrich this wonderful diocese.” ••