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Monsignor Raul Del Valle Square

Monsignor Raul Del Valle Square

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Monsignor Raul del Valle (1926-1988) was born in Cuba on June 1, 1926. He left Cuba to study in Rome and in 1949 he earned a Licentiate in Canon Law at Gregorian University. He then returned to Cuba to be ordained as a priest. He was Secretary to the Cardinal, but was forced to flee the county after Fidel Castro came to power. He arrived in the United States in 1961, where he held several parish and teaching assignments until he was made pastor of Saint Anselm Parish in 1976. After rehabilitating and revitalizing the church, the Archidiocese asked him to take over the parish at Saint Athanasius in 1980.

Facing the results of serious neglect at Saint Athanasius, Msgr. del Valle set out to work both as a religious leader and a laborer. He addressed the need for physical repairs with his own two hands, including fixing the roof. Later, when the Archdiocese asked him to raise $30,000 to rebuild the church, Monsignor del Valle and his community raised the staggering sum of $350,000.

Monsignor del Valle’s talents extended well beyond the maintenance and repair of buildings. As one of his friends put it, “He didn’t just rebuild churches, he rebuilt people.” Monsignor del Valle spent much of his time working with the disadvantaged, setting up shelters and food stations for the homeless.

Unfortunately, Monsignor del Valle discovered he had stomach cancer. He took a leave of absence, and returned several months later with the same enthusiasm. His work was so exceptional that he attracted the notice of the late Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor (1920-2000), who appointed him Chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York in 1985””the first Chancellor born in Latin America.

Recognizing that his life was nearing its end, Monsignor del Valle had one fervent wish: to return to Cuba before he died. Given the hostile feelings that had forced him to leave Cuba, the situation was not hopeful. Cardinal O’Connor intervened personally and asked Fidel Castro to grant the Monsignor a visa. Castro assented, and Monsignor del Valle was able to return to his homeland. He returned to New York happy and at peace. A few months later, on September 20, 1988, Monsignor del Valle died at the age of 66. He is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

The City of New York acquired this land for public purposes in 1909 by condemnation. The park remained unnamed until March of 1923, when it was designated Crames Square in honor of Private Charles Crames who died in World War I. In1991, at the request of Community Board #2, the park was renamed after Monsignor del Valle. Today, this small square stands both as a memorial to a dedicated humanitarian and a place of rest and recreation for people of all ages.

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