Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | Newly divorced, with a young son, Michelle Gronkiewicz moved from California to Hialeah in 1987. She joined a prayer group at St. John the Apostle Church. And that’s where she met Father George Cardona — a friendship that lasted until his death last Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, at the age of 90.
“He was my counselor, my ‘padrecito,’” Gronkiewicz said, using a Spanish diminutive for “father” that encompassed both his kindness and his short stature. “Padrecito Cardona was all love.”
“He was the life of St. John,” said a fellow parishioner, Reina Rodriguez. “Everybody knew ‘el padrecito.’”
Father Cardona, a priest for 67 years, served as parochial vicar at St. John from June 1988 until his retirement in August 1995. But he remained in the area and Gronkiewicz, her sister, and other parishioners would visit him frequently — until the pandemic struck last year.
“When he saw us, he would get very sentimental and cry. But he would say, it’s out of joy,” Gronkiewicz said. In her view, the lack of visitors for the past nine months contributed to his demise. Although he was diabetic, she said, the disease was under control.
Father Cardona provided tremendous support to her and her family over the years, she noted. He was there when her mother became ill. He was there to guide her and her son, and to encourage them along the way.
“He was my friend, my grandpa, my father. He supported me a lot. He helped me a lot,” Gronkiewicz said. “A good person with a lot of love. I love him so much and I will love him forever.”
Father Cardona also made her laugh. When he saw her and other members of the prayer group coming, she recalled, he would say, “Here come ‘las piadosas’” — the pious ones. And whenever she drove him and her sister anywhere, he would say, “Michelle is our guiding light.”
“He was really funny,” Gronkiewicz said. “He didn’t laugh but he made us laugh.”
She said it was comforting to know that he died having received all the sacraments and an apostolic blessing. “He is now in the arms of his Mother, Mary, whom he loved very much.”
Born in Mataró, Catalonia, Spain, Aug. 19, 1930, Father Cardona was ordained in Barcelona for the Piarist Fathers, May 30, 1953. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the seminary in Salamanca, Spain, he studied at Havana Business University for one year. He completed a second bachelor’s degree at Immaculate Heart of Mary College in Los Angeles after five years of study.
In addition to Spanish and English, he spoke Catalan, Italian and Latin and understood French, Portuguese and Rumanian.
He arrived in the Archdiocese of Miami in September 1966 and began teaching at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale. He taught there until 1968 and then again from 1973 to 1976. After spending a few months in residence at Sacred Heart Parish in Homestead, he became a chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Miami, serving there from 1977 to 1980. On Oct. 21, 1981, he became a priest of the archdiocese.
He also served as parochial vicar at St. Augustine Church in Coral Gables (1980-1985); St. Agnes in Key Biscayne (1985); St. Hugh in Coconut Grove (1985-1986); St. James in North Miami (1986-1988) and finally St. John in Hialeah.
Funeral services will be held this Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at Our Lady of the Lakes, 15801 N.W. 67 Ave., Miami Lakes. A viewing will begin at 9:30 a.m. followed by funeral Mass at 11:30 a.m., celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Burial will follow at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami.