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Piarist Father Oscar Alonso, 77

‘Gregarious, popular’ priest taught at Cardinal Gibbons High School for past 39 years

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This story has been updated with the funeral arrangements, and a video of his funeral service prepared by Araceli Cantero, formerly of La Voz Católica.

FORT LAUDERDALE | It’s been a difficult week for students and staff at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

On Thursday, the school held a prayer service for those killed and injured the day before in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“We’re competitive in terms of athletics,” explained Gibbons’ principal, Paul Ott. Many Gibbons students also play on club teams with students from Douglas or know them from elementary school. “So we had a lot of hurting kids here.”

Born Feb. 20, 1940; entered Piarist community Aug. 14, 1957; ordained Feb. 17, 1968; died Feb. 16, 2018.

Photographer: FILE PHOTO

Born Feb. 20, 1940; entered Piarist community Aug. 14, 1957; ordained Feb. 17, 1968; died Feb. 16, 2018.

Friday morning, Ott gathered his students and staff once again for another prayer service: Piarist Father Oscar Alonso, who taught theology to Gibbons’ seniors, had died earlier that morning. He had taught at the school for 39 years.

Father Alonso would have turned 78 this weekend and was a day away from marking 50 years of priesthood. He had just completed 60 years in religious life.

“He was a very popular priest here at Cardinal Gibbons,” said Ott. “He was very gregarious. He would tell the kids that he was a goofy old man. And he would tell them to be nice to the goofy old man. He called his students his ‘chicas’ or ‘chicos’ (Spanish for guys or gals). He was very friendly. He was very outgoing. And he’s been a senior theology teacher probably since he came here.”

Father Alonso also celebrated Mass at the junior ring ceremony, the Mass for seniors, and many of the all-school Masses.

Ott is a Gibbons graduate who returned to his alma mater as a teacher after college. When Father Alonso arrived at Gibbons, Ott was already teaching there.

“He had always said that he wanted to die teaching or in his sleep, and he did both,” said Ott. “He taught yesterday and went to bed and died in his sleep.”

Father Alonso was in good health, according to his fellow Piarist, Father John Callan, who also teaches at Gibbons. He had celebrated Mass, prayed the Stations of the Cross, then “just died very peaceful in his sleep.”

Father Callan had been Father Alonso’s student.

“Father taught me in high school when I was a student in Pennsylvania for four years,” Father Callan said. He also oversaw his first two years in the order. They worked together at Gibbons since 1994, and before that during Father Alonso’s last year at the Pennsylvania high school where he taught before coming to South Florida.

“He was like my mentor teacher,” Father Callan said. “He preached at my first Mass and he preached at my 25th anniversary.”

Born in Madrid de las Caderechas, in the province of Burgos, Spain, Feb. 20, 1940, Father Alonso entered the Piarists’ formation house in Villacarriedo and later in Getafe, where he finished high school. He entered the novitiate Aug. 14, 1957 and made his first profession Aug. 15, 1958.

He continued his studies in Spain until the Piarist Fathers’ Castilian Province assigned him to the United States. He arrived in January 1966 and resided at the Piarists’ House of Studies in Washington, D.C. There, his Master of Juniors was Father Mario Vizcaino, a retired Piarist priest well-known in Miami because of his longtime leadership of the Southeast Regional Office for Hispanics and the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI).

Father Alonso completed his theological studies by obtaining a master’s degree from the Catholic University of America. He was ordained a priest in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Feb. 17, 1968 and assigned to the Piarist community in Devon, Pa. He taught Spanish and theology at Devon Prep from 1968 to 1979.

In the meantime, he continued to study, obtaining a master’s degree in Spanish literature and another in library science from Villanova University in Philadelphia. In addition to serving as vocations director for the Piarist Province while in Philadelphia, he was appointed superior of the South Florida community in 2003.

On weekends, he helped out at St. Paul the Apostle in Lighthouse Point, St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Pompano Beach, St. Bonaventure in Davie, and St. Joan of Arc and St. Jude in Boca Raton.

“His weekends were very busy. It wasn’t uncommon for him to have on Saturday morning a funeral, a wedding and a baptism,” said Father Callan.

Father Alonso also kept busy during summers by going on missions with the Piarists in the parish of Macuspana in Tabasco, Mexico.

“He put his soul into his ministry among the people of the rancherias,” Father Callan wrote in an obituary he sent to his fellow Piarists. “He not only financially supported some construction projects (chapels), but also more importantly trained lay leaders in the local communities and lay volunteer missionaries from the United States.  For many years, he also promoted a Bible program by offering Bibles to farmers at a very very low cost.”

And he taught adults in South Florida: classes at SEPI for those studying for their master’s in Hispanic ministry, and Bible courses for those studying for the permanent deaconate in the Archdiocese of Miami.

“He’s an excellent example of selfless service to his Church and to education,” said Ott.

Funeral services will take place Saturday, Feb. 24, with a viewing from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 1:30 p.m., all at St. Paul the Apostle Church, 2700 N.E. 36 St., Lighthouse Point. He will be buried in his native Burgos, Spain.

In lieu of flowers, the Piarist Fathers are asking that donations in Father Alonso’s name be made to the Piarist Seminarian or Retirement Funds, P.O. Box 11822, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33339.

 




 

Comments from readers

Anthony Ceritano - 02/21/2018 06:39 PM
I am saddened by the news of Fr. Alonso's passing. He was one of those teachers who one never forgets. He was my homeroom, religion, and Spanish teacher at Devon Prep. My condolences to his families and also Fr. Callan who was my classmate at Devon.
George Beothy - 02/20/2018 10:18 AM
Fr. Oscar was one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever known. I taught with him at Devon Prep in the 70's. He was a true Christian, a true priest, a true Piarist. May his soul rest in Our Lord!
Richard Kiester - 02/20/2018 09:48 AM
Father Alonso was the most selfless and humble man of God that I have ever met. He was one of the few individuals you meet in a lifetime who's example will always burn brightly in your memory. I also was most honored to meet his family in Burgos many years ago and to attend the wedding of his brother. The loss of such a man is a profound loss for all.
Paul Ludwick - 02/20/2018 09:47 AM
Father Alonso is leaving a tremendous hole in our St. Paul parish community...he was the absolute picture of humility, grace and love. "Pray for a clean heart for the old man;" "are you driven by the love of power, or the power of love?" These are just two of the many phrases that defined him, and he was always teaching us...not only with words. I can still picture him sitting in his front corner chapel pew in preparation for serving at mass, eyes closed, beatific expression on his face as he quietly prayed. I would look at him in those moments and tell myself, "I want to learn to pray like that." He was so proud of his Cardinal Gibbons students, and delighted in telling us stories from his classroom from the altar on Sundays. He loved "his goofies." And he loved the Mexican community he visited on mission every summer, recently telling me "can you imagine how those people will deal with it when I'm no longer physically able to make that summer trip? I've been going there for 36 years." Sadly, they're going to have to learn how they will adjust, as we all will. Rest in peace, faithful servant, and reap your just reward. We will miss you terribly.
Eduardo E Salas - 02/20/2018 01:12 AM
Father Oscar was my priest and friend a long time ago while I attend Sanit Joan of Arc in Boca Raton, he was very good teacher, very humble and loving person. I recorded some of his homilies wich I still have with me, ( I listen to them from time to time). Rest in Peace Father Oscar, you will be miss by so many people and always love. Love you RIP
Luz Elena Borrero - 02/19/2018 10:36 PM
Father Alonso was my religion teacher at Cardinal Gibbons HS back in 1983. He was a wonderful human being; a gentle soul, a true servant of our Lord. I will never forget his enthusiasm and love of teaching as well as how easily he connected with his students. I had the opportunity of seeing Father Alonso 23 years later at a Mass at St. Paul’s Lighthouse Point in a visit to Florida. He remembered me as well as my brothers and sister who also graduated from Gibbons. Rest In Peace father Alonso, you are up there with our Lord.
Steve Corcoran - 02/19/2018 04:04 PM
I am happy to say that I was one of Fr Alonso's "Chico's" at Devon Prep in the mid 1970's..a few years behind Fr Callan. Fr Alsonso was an awesome professor and just an all around terrific person who taught me many key life lessons...some while I was on Saturday detentions by the way...I seem to remember that he wrote his own textbook to teach us in Spanish Class and that he organized the Community outreach program at Devon. It's so great to see that he had a long and awesome career at Cardinal Gibbons. Rest in Peace Fr Alonso! Steve Corcoran, New Hope, PA.
R - 02/19/2018 01:54 PM
Father Oscar Alonso was the most inspiring priest I've ever met. At a young age, around 18-19, I was connected back to the catholic church because of him. Mass with him was always a pleasure to hear. I learned a lot about the way we forgive and love people. I wish I could hear his homilies once more. "Soy hijo de Dios, Amado de Dios, a quien Dios quiere acoger, y en quien Dios quiere habitar." Rest in peace.
Colonel McGillin Howard O. Jr - 02/19/2018 01:35 PM
Fr Alonso taught me at Devon Prep in Philadelphia. He had a joy of life that was a wonder to behold. He was a true servant of God who inspired all who came to encounter him. I am saddened by his passing but know he is with the Lord. This world is a better place because of Fr Oscar Alonso. We are better people for having known him. Howard O McGillin Jr St Augustine FL
Deacon Nelson Diaz - 02/19/2018 10:16 AM
I was heartbroken when a brother Deacon notified me of Father Oscar’s passing. He was our Holy Scripture teacher for several years at the Seminary. Excellent. Very kind and loving. Very knowledgeable. He was a major influence in our formation. He will be sorely missed; but now we trust he is enjoying the unfading crown of glory he deservingly earned. May he Rest In Peace. Dcn. Nelson Diaz
Amanda C. Flores - 02/18/2018 11:40 AM
Padre Alonso: Bautizo y caso a mis hijos en la Iglesia de Santa Juana de Arcos en Boca Raton. Nuestro corazon siente un infinito dolor por su ausencia, fue el mas grande ejemplo de amor, en el que se encierra su caridad, bondad y sencillez hacia el ser humano. Nos deja infinitas lecciones a seguir. Descanse en Paz.
Gail Kolcz - 02/17/2018 11:34 AM
Father Alonso was a Priest at my old Church in Lighthouse Point. Such a loving, caring, and kind soul. I want to believe that he has gone to Heaven to be with our children from the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas. Rest in Gods Peace Father.
Deacon Victor Pimentel - 02/16/2018 10:03 PM
Father Oscar Alonso taught Scripture studies in the Diaconate formation program for more than three decades. He was beloved by the current candidates as well as the many deacons he inspired to love the Sacred Scriptures. He would always conclude his class by requesting “pray for the old man.” Indeed, many deacons today are praying for the old man. May he Rest In Peace.
Deacon Jose Aleman - 02/16/2018 06:11 PM
Father Alonso loved teaching the Bible and giving us some theological focus on the passages. At the same time he was tremendously spiritual and it was perceived that not only was imparting knowledge but living the message, which was always of love, hope, salvation. I had the pleasure of having him as a professor during my studies of permanent diaconate, and my wife attended several of his courses at SEPI, and I can tell you that his students admired him and loved him. He always repeated that he would die as a teacher, and so it happened. I hope that he is enjoying the love of the One he followed and dedicated his life "making disciples." Deacon José Alemán

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