Pope Francis this week accepted the resignation of New York Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, who most recently has served as episcopal vicar of Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Rockland counties.
The bishop had submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday March 6, as required by canon law.
Bishop Lagonegro’s retirement was announced July 2 in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
He has served as an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese since his consecration in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Dec. 12, 2001.
He was ordained to the episcopacy along with Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, now retired as Bishop of Springfield, Mass., and retired Auxiliary Bishop Josu Iriondo, who served as vicar for Hispanic Affairs in the archdiocese.
Bishop Lagonegro served first under Cardinal Edward Egan and since 2009 under Cardinal Dolan.
“For nearly half a century, Bishop Dominick Lagonegro has faithfully served God and His people in the Archdiocese of New York as priest, pastor, and bishop,” Cardinal Dolan said in a statement.
“I thank him for his collaboration, his friendship, and, most especially, his priestly ministry, much of which he carried out in his beloved upper counties of the archdiocese.”
“Now that our Holy Father has accepted his well-deserved retirement, I am confident that he will continue to find many opportunities to carry out that ministry in new and exciting ways.”
Bishop Lagonegro is well known throughout the archdiocese for his warm and friendly demeanor as well as a joyful pastoral presence.
Bishop Lagonegro, who will celebrate the golden jubilee of his priesthood next year, has served as a pastor of three parishes. He was first a pastor at St. Denis-St. Columba parish in Hopewell Junction, 1989-1992, until St. Columba was made a separate parish, which he served as the first pastor.
In 2002, he was named pastor of Sacred Heart parish, Newburgh, a post he held until being appointed episcopal vicar of Northern Westchester/Putnam, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess counties in 2009.
His parish ministry, and especially his service as a pastor, remains a high point. When he first arrived in Hopewell Junction, St. Columba was a mission of St. Denis. Over time, St. Columba developed and grew until it was ready to stand on its own. “This is one of the things I feel proudest about. Both are beautiful parishes now,” Bishop Lagonegro said in a phone interview with CNY last week.
As we spoke, the bishop was enjoying a belated 75th birthday trip. That day, he had visited Graceland in Memphis, and he was anticipating a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
Even on vacation, he was happy to emphasize a piece of advice he might give to a new pastor or any priest, for that matter.
“We are called to serve the people in the parish,” Bishop Lagonegro said. “We are servants of the people. The more we serve them, and in serving them, we love them—the more they respond. That’s when the Church grows.”
Most recently, he has served as episcopal vicar of Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Rockland counties since 2014. He served as episcopal vicar for Dutchess County, 1997-2002, and was co-vicar of Orange County, 2002-2009.
Bishop Lagonegro recently told CNY that when his resignation as bishop became effective, he looked forward to having more time for pastoral functions, such as presiding at confirmations and celebrating Masses in parishes of the archdiocese. He said he is also happy he will continue to serve as liaison between the Bishops of New York state and the state’s Catholic prison chaplains.
The bishop said that he thinks “one of the most necessary things that we as a Church continue to do” is advocate “for greater respect for all life.” That respect, the bishop said, extends to the unborn, to migrants, to the poor, to the elderly and to prisoners. Getting people to accept the proposition is a big challenge in today’s society, he said.
“More and more people are not seeing human beings as having a dignity from God,” the bishop said.
Bishop Lagonegro, a native of White Plains, was ordained a priest of the archdiocese by Cardinal Terence Cooke in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on May 31, 1969. He also served at the following parishes: St. Vito’s, Mamaroneck; St. Joseph’s, Kingston; and Holy Trinity, Poughkeepsie.
He studied for the priesthood at Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.
Father Michael McLoughlin, the current pastor of St. Columba parish in Hopewell Junction, said Bishop Lagonegro remains a beloved figure in the Dutchess parish more than 15 years after his pastorate ended.
“He’s loved here,” Father McLoughlin said. “He’s a great priest and a great pastor.”
One of the things that stands out about Bishop Lagonegro is “his joyful living out of his vocation as a priest filled with hope, filled with mercy and filled with joy,” Father McLoughlin said.
Bishop Lagonegro’s generosity of spirit extends to his fellow priests. Father McLoughlin spoke about how the bishop’s cultivation of priestly fraternity meant a lot when he was the lone priest serving at Sacred Heart parish in Highland Falls, 1996-2002. The bishop would organize dinners out for priests after the last Mass on Saturday evenings.
“It was especially important in those years,” Father McLoughlin told CNY.
It’s clear the bishop holds a special spot in his heart for St. Columba because he plans to return to mark his golden jubilee of priesthood at Mass on June 2, 2019. St. Columba is even moving up its parish picnic to accommodate the occasion.
“In some ways, it’s as if he never left,” Father McLoughlin said. “His spirit is alive here.”