The Archdiocese of New York’s first Hispanic bishop, who spent over 25 years giving back to the Bronx, has officially been honored.
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish on 1900 Crotona Parkway was headed by Bishop Francisco Garmendia until 2001. Garmendia passed away in 2005, but for over 25 years, the native of Spain dedicated his life to improving his parish and community.
On Wednesday, June 29, the corner of Fairmount Place and Crotona Parkway was officially renamed Bishop Francisco Garmendia Place. The bill sponsored by Councilman Joel Rivera was signed by Mayor Bloomberg in December 2010, and all that remained was a proper time to have the ceremony.
“Bishop Francisco Garmendia’s journey through life in the service of God began in Spain and took him to New York where he became the first Hispanic Bishop in the Archdiocese of New York,” Rivera said. “An imprint of his good deeds and contributions are still visible today within the activities he coordinated through the church and into the community.”
Prior to coming to New York, Garmendia served in Argentina, and was well received with the Hispanic communities of the borough when he came to the Bronx. While serving at St. Thomas Aquinas, Garmendia helped organize a center to help immigrants who were new to the country. He was also involved in the development of Hope Line of the south Bronx in 1990.
While serving as Bishop at St. Thomas Aquinas, Garmendia was named Vicar for Spanish Pastoral Development, Vicar for Hispanic Affairs, and ultimately Vicar of the south Bronx. Garmendia also organized the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center in 1985 at St. Anthony of Padua, on 832 E. 166th Street.
In 1990, Garmendia led a ministerial response to the survivors, mostly Honduran immigrants, of the Happy Land Social Club fire on 1959 Southern Boulevard that claimed nearly 90 lives.
“He just always cared about his parish and his surrounding communities,” said one parishioner. “Many pastors care about their churches, but Bishop Garmendia was always there when his church needed him.”
Guests that evening were invited to tour the Bishop Francisco Garmendia Museum located inside St. Thomas Aquinas Church, which was immediately followed by a mass in his honor before the street sign was unveiled.