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Second oldest bishop emeritus in the world turns 100

Bishop Emeritus Rene H. Gracida

Jay Sanchez | Fair Use via YouTube

Bishop Emeritus Rene H. Gracida

J-P Mauro - published on 06/09/23

Bishop Emeritus René H Gracida recently gave an interview that shows young men the fullness of a life lived in service to the Church.

Aleteia wishes a very happy birthday to Bishop Emeritus René H Gracida, the second oldest Catholic prelate in the world, who turned 100 years old today, June 9, 2023.

A veteran of World War II, this centenarian served his country as tail gunner and flight engineer with the US Army Air Corps, flying in 32 missions over Germany before returning to the US. Afterward, he attended college and became an architect, but his career was replaced with a vocation in 1959, when he was ordained a Catholic priest in the Order of St. Benedict.

“I sat down in the last pew just a few minutes before Bishop Duane Hunt, the Bishop of Salt Lake City, entered in procession up the center aisle, within 10 feet of me,” Gracida explained of his vocation. “It was a changing moment in my life, that Mass really affected me. His homily moved me to tears.” 

By 1961, friction between Fr. Gracida and the Benedictine order led to his transfer to the Archdiocese of Miami, where he thrived as a parish priest. Just 10 years later, in 1971, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, only to be elevated again to Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1975. His fine work in both these dioceses would lead Pope St. John Paul II to install Bishop Gracida in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, in 1983, where he remained until his mandatory retirement at the age of 75, in 1997. 

Bishop Emeritus Gracida recently gave an interview in which he reflected on his life and works. 

The video holds immeasurable value as a resource to encourage vocational discernment, as it shows how full a life dedicated to Christ can be. While many young men who might thrive in the priesthood may wonder if such a lifestyle would be restrictive, this interview shows that the reality is quite the opposite. Beaming a contented smile, the bishop emeritus listed so many experiences that denote a life well-lived.

Gracida shared his hobbies, which include operating light aircraft. The skills he learned in the Army came in handy when learning how to fly a small plane so that he could more easily get from the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to the Archdiocese of Miami, which is a full day’s drive by car. He also shared his many pets, including several dogs and his current cat, Ziggy, who routinely shows up at Mass with the retired priest. 

During his tenure presiding over the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Bishop Emeritus Gracida was pivotal in forming the “The Ark,” a non-profit organization that provides “a caring intervention for abused, neglected and displaced children and youth, ages 0 through 17, by placing them in a secure environment.” 

Although it has been many decades since his vocational discernment, he said that the aspects of the Church that inspired him to follow Christ continue to do so today.

“That calling, to serve God’s people, as a teacher, a healer, a friend in Jesus, a communicator of God’s will by making his will known through his Commandments and the teachings of the Church, all of that has motivated me from the very beginning,” Gracida explained of his vocation. “This was a special calling that was changing my life.”

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