BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB) - The parishioners of St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church deeply loved and respected Father Joe. Some have likened him to Father Baker or Mother Teresa.
They were very angry to learn he was being transferred away from them, and they want to know why.
One week before his death, Father Joe Moreno received a letter from Bishop Malone's office, informing him that he was being transferred out of St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church.
Many of Father Joe's parishioners believe, that could have driven him to take his own life.
Bishop Richard Malone from the Buffalo Catholic Diocese says, "I met with Father Joe, actually sitting down for a conversation for the first time this past Tuesday, to discuss his change in assignment. He said, 'I love hospital work, and if I could be a hospital chaplain, I would be delighted.' And I said to him, 'We can certainly consider that.'"
During that meeting, Bishop Malone says, he never got the impression that Father Joe was despondent.
"I did not see that when I was with him on Tuesday. He was anxious to learn what he would be moving on to, and asked for hospital work. Which I was going to honor."
Meanwhile, some parishioners were writing angry letters to the Bishop, calling Father Joe "the perfect fit" to be the permanent pastor of St. Lawrence, and starting a petition to keep him.
"It happens in every parish. It's very unusual, when a beloved priest is transferred, and people are not upset by that," says Bishop Malone.
Father Joe was St. Lawrence's sacramental minister, but two deacons, who are now retiring, are the actual administrators.
Moreno's replacement, Father Francis Mazur, will fill both roles.
Bishop Malone is not saying why Father Mazur was appointed, instead of Father Joe. He says, "those are personnel matters that we don't discuss, about any priest transfer."
According to Deacon Weisenberger at St. Lawrence, Father Joe will have a full Mass of Christian Burial.
Father Joe's family and the Diocese are still working out his funeral arrangements, but the ceremony may be held downtown, because so many people are expected to attend.
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