El Mensajero (English)

Posted: September 11, 2018

The eulogy given by El Mensajero Católico Staff Writer Annette Jiménez at the funeral of Father Laurence Tracy

 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following eulogy was given by El Mensajero Católico Staff Writer Annette Jiménez Aug. 22 at the funeral of Father Laurence Tracy.
 
“Actions speak louder than words. Let your words teach and your actions speak.”
 
I think we can agree that these words from St. Anthony de Padua beautifully capture the essence of Father Laurence Tracy. With his booming voice and commanding presence — he was a great orator with immense knowledge of Scripture. And he was a servant, the people’s padre who spoke as eloquently by the way he lived his life.
 
In his final days, Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, who was blessed to him her entire life, said that she felt he truly was a saint. This sentiment was one echoed by several people, including community leaders.
 
I could not get that thought out of my head. We all know of saints. But being the reporter that I am, I looked into it a little bit and what defines a saint. I came across an article by Lucy Fuchs for the St. Anthony Messenger that listed seven characteristics of saints. I don’t know if Father Tracy would approve of me comparing him to a saint, but I believe his life exemplified by these characteristics.
 
All saints are filled with the love of God.
 
Having chosen the path of priesthood, Father Tracy used his role to spread God’s love and mercy to everyone he encountered throughout his ministry.
 
All saints love other human beings.
 
We are well aware of Father Tracy’s boundless love for Latinos, specifically Puerto Ricans and our music, food and culture, but he showed his love for others in so many ways. He supported the poor who could not afford burials and took on Monroe County to restore funding. He showed compassion to the street people on his beloved Avenida Clinton by riding over on his scooter to give the drug users the extra food from the meals brought to nourish him. He showed mercy to the prisoners in jail. He loved as Jesus loved.
 
All saints are risk-takers.
 
Father Tracy defied authority as Jesus did as he sat in, marched and protested alongside Latinos who fought for bilingual education, affordable housing and equal employment. But he also pushed the church’s envelope when it came to the norm of relocating priests to different parishes. After some persuasion on both sides, he was allowed to continue serving in urban Rochester — a blessing to all involved.
 
The saints are humble, willingly and lovingly attributing to God all that they have and all that they will ever be.
 
When Padre was honored by the Rochester Latino Rotary Club in 2012, the honors, plaques and awards he received for his dedication to social justice filled tables. Awards continued since then from wide and far (St. Bonaventure, the NYS Association of Bilingual Education, Monroe County, United Christian Leadership Ministry of WNY, Rochester ACTS and the RCSD, to name a few). In recent months, Ibero and Los Flamboyanes renamed buildings in his honor. The Father Tracy Health and & Wellness Center opened in May to care for anyone who walks in. Yet, when I last spoke with Father Tracy a couple of weeks ago, he said it was all too much. “I may never die,” he joked with me. He said his awards belonged to those who worked alongside him in advocacy and solidarity. You were the ones who deserved the honor and recognition, he said. He had merely been blessed by God to have found all of you and be there when you needed him.
 
Saints are people of prayer.
 
A good friend of Father Tracy recently said he had sat with Padre trying to document how many baptisms, marriages and funerals he had celebrated. They began with baptisms and realized it was hopeless, the numbers too great. In all those moments, Father offered prayers of comfort to the suffering and guidance to those in celebration. His lifelong prayer was for justice and peace and an end to violence in his barrio. We can only hope his prayer is realized one day.
 
The saints are not perfect.
 
We are made in the image and likeness of God but no human is perfect. When I moved to Rochester in the 1990s, my father recounted tales from his early days in Rochester and remembered Father Tracy as someone who never shied away from a good party. So, yes, Father Tracy was like us—made with human weaknesses and failings. But, even then, he showed us by his example that he was always walking with us wherever we were in our journeys.
 
The saints are people of their times.
 
Father Tracy became a priest in the late ’60s at a time when Rochester had been welcoming many Puerto Rican families who were fleeing economic depression. Sound familiar? He didn’t shy away from helping these families and immersed himself in the language and culture to the point where he became “a Boricua de Corazon. A Puerto Rican at heart.” He was at the forefront of Hispanic ministry, which has grown here and throughout this country. He loved his people, cared for them, cried with them and loved them. Being with the people, for the people and of the people characterized Father Tracy’s work. He will always be with us — in our hearts because of the huge heart he shared with us.
 
When I learned Father Tracy wanted me to speak today from Father Bob (Werth), I was in shock. How could this be? At the hospital last week, I asked Belen (Colón) why he would bestow this incredible honor on me. She said because I was la mensajera, the messenger.
 
Then I reflected on how I got to know Father Tracy nearly 20 years ago. I wrote a profile on him for a local magazine, so I followed him around and attended Mass at Mt. Carmel with my family. I realize now God was leading us to that moment because we had been searching for a new parish. When we heard Padre preach, we knew we were home. After the profile was published, Father Tracy wrote me a note of thanks even though he said the piece was a bit apocryphal. Believe me, I had to look up the word. It means mythical. He was ever the teacher. He would probably think these remarks are apocryphal.
 
In 2005, I could not have begun my job with El Mensajero without him and am forever in his debt. Father Tracy was connected to so many people, not only Latinos but numerous communities of all races, religions and creeds. He helped me tell the stories of the people and issues he had advocated for — immigration, health care, equal education and justice for the poor. He used to say ‘El Mensajero is here’ whenever I would see him at an event, and he knew that because he was always there too.
 
My husband said Father Tracy had faith in me to tell our stories. And he believed in nuestra comunidad. I know he is up in heaven right now advocating for us as we speak while Pedro Nuñez accompanies him on his cuattro.
 
Together, we will move forward, p’alante just as he would want us to. And to honor him, let us strive to fulfill Father Tracy’s mission summarized in the words of Robert F. Kennedy upon the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” (And I add whether they be Latino.)
 
Now go out and follow the example of Padre Tracy who we loved and loved us.
 
Que Dios los bendiga a todos. May God bless you.
 
“Que viva la lucha!”

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