Father Robert Arce, who served at St. Margaret Mary for half of his 48 years at Bronx parishes, died June 12 at the Cardinal Edward Egan Pavilion in the Bronx. He was 78.
Father Arce was at St. Margaret Mary as pastor, 1991-2013, and senior priest administrator, from 2013 until his retirement in 2015.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, vicar for clergy, celebrated the Funeral Mass June 19 at St. Margaret Mary Church. Father Eric P. Cruz, pastor of St. John Chrysostom parish in the Bronx and Catholic Charities’ Bronx regional coordinator, was the homilist.
“He lived with joy and led you on a path of discovery,” Father Cruz said in his homily.
Father Cruz first met Father Arce about 45 years ago as a first-grader at St. Augustine School in the Bronx. After receiving his First Communion, Father Cruz became an altar server at St. Augustine, serving Masses Father Arce celebrated. Father Arce had a deep influence on the priestly vocation of Father Cruz, vesting him with his stole and chasuble on his ordination day.
“His joy for the priesthood was contagious and it led me to the priesthood,” Father Cruz said. “It opened me to God and helped me to understand what the call meant in my experience.”
Their friendship continued to grow over the years. Father Cruz recalled moments when Father Arce grabbed his hand to help a young Father Cruz cross the street. In Father Arce’s final days, Father Cruz said it was his turn to do the same in prayer for his friend and mentor.
“I told him, remember when you held my hand. It’s my turn to hold your hand and say thank you for all you’ve done in my life and everyone’s lives you touched. I know he was very grateful for the words and the visits,” Father Cruz said.
Father Arce was parochial vicar at St. Dominic, Bronx, 1988-1991; St. Augustine, Bronx, 1967-1988; and St. Lawrence O’Toole, Brewster, 1964-1967. He had a summer assignment at Immaculate Conception, Bangall, 1964.
Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, he graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx before studying for the priesthood at Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary. Cardinal Francis Spellman ordained him in 1964.
Burial followed the Funeral Mass at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx.