GOIANIA, Brazil — Benedict Coscia, OFM, 85, a Franciscan friar for 64 years, a priest for 58 years and a bishop for 46 years, died April 30, of a heart attack.
The Mass of Christian Burial was held May 2 at the Cathedral of Divino Espirito Santo, which he constructedin Jatai, Brazil. A memorial Mass will be held in New Jersey next week.
Benedict was born Aug. 10, 1922, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Dominic and Angela Coscia. He was baptized Vito on Aug. 5, 1928, in Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Staten Island, N.Y. From 1927 to 1935, he attended Public School #104 in Brooklyn, and graduated in 1939 from Immaculata High School in New York City. He then attended St. Francis College in Brooklyn for two years before entering St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., in 1941.
On Aug. 12, 1942, he was received into the Franciscan Order, Holy Name Province, in Paterson, N.J., by Mathias Faust, OFM, receiving the religious name of Dominic. He professed his simple vows on Aug. 13, 1943, before Bertrand Campbell, OFM. He completed his philosophical studies at St. Stephen Friary, Croghan, N.Y., and St. Anthony Friary, Butler, N.J., and studied theology at Holy Name College, Washington, D.C., where he professed his solemn vows before Bertrand on Sept. 17, 1946. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1949, in the chapel of Trinity College in Washington by Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States.
Immediately following ordination, Benedict volunteered for the Province’s mission in the state of Goiás, Brazil. While there, he changed his religious name to Benedict in honor of St. Benedict the Moor, a Franciscan saint to whom he had a special devotion, and was known in that country as Frei Benedito. After serving as assistant at the parish of Santa Ana in Anápolis and then as pastor at Pires do Rio, at the age of 38 he was appointed bishop of the diocese of Jataí, Goiás by Pope John XXIII. He received the episcopal ordination on Sept. 21, 1961, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, from Bishop Bryan McEntegart.
Benedict attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and moved energetically to implement its decisions in his vast diocese of Jataí, which is over three times the size of the state of New Jersey. He recruited congregations of men and women religious to serve the diocese and encouraged vocations to his diocesan clergy, being a pioneer in the establishment of the permanent diaconate in Brazil. He remained an energetic and exemplary shepherd of his diocese for 38 years, continuing to serve even after his retirement in 1999. During his trips back to the United States, he often officiated at confirmations in the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses.
In 1963, he was made an honorary citizen of the State of Goiás by the state assembly, and on May 7, 1982, St. Francis College in Brooklyn awarded Benedict the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
A Mass was celebrated the day of his death in the metropolitan Cathedral of Goiania; his body was then taken to Jataí where he was buried in the crypt. A memorial Mass for friends and family is scheduled for May 17 at 10 a.m. at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J. A luncheon will follow.