One of the most beloved religious figures in Hunts Point now has a visitors lounge named in his honor at the facility where he became a part of the patients’ lives.
San Vicente de Paul Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had an unveiling ceremony of a plaque officially dedicating a family lounge to Msgr. William Smith, the late pastor of St. Anthanasius Church at 878 Tiffany Street, on Tuesday, September 29.
Msgr. Smith was one of the leading voices in the opening of the nursing care facility at 900 Intervale Avenue, and fought hard to make the vision of many community activists a reality. The long-term care center opened its doors in the fall of 1992.
“Today we celebrate 17 years of St. Vincent de Paul providing quality elder and long-term care to the people of the south Bronx,” said Julia Cruz, a staff-member who knew Smith well. “Today, we also come to St. Vincent de Paul to honor Msgr. Smith, who we now consider a great leader in our community […] We miss him and remember the goodness he gave us.”
Smith was instrumental in convincing the Archdiocese of New York to open a long-term care facility after two decades of arson and abandonment had stripped the neighborhood bare.
The ceremony that celebrated both Smith and the longevity of the center was preceded by a mass celebrated by Archbishop Jose Iriondo and a procession through the streets of Hunts Point.
Smith was ordained a priest on May 28, 1960, and spent more than 46 years in two different parishes in the south Bronx. Smith frequently offered mass at St. Vincent de Paul, and was at the facility nearly every day to give out communion.
Smith passed away in 1999, but the room warmly remembers him with pictures and the awards he won during his time serving the people of the neighborhood.
“He was unique because you could feel comfortable talking about anything with Msgr. Smith – from loosing a family member, a burnt out apartment, and personal concerns,” said Millie Colon, who was married by Smith and remembers being taken on field trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with him and other neighborhood children as a member of the Daughters of Mary Holy Society. “He was a motivator who inspired everyone to take the right road. He was devoted to the parish and to the people that it served.”
©2009 Community News Group