LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- "One can not over look the difficulties Padre Felix Varela faced because of his ideas during his time. A lot of folks didn't like them. So it was very hard for him, yet he never wavered or gave up. He is a good model. It's an honor for LA to have been chosen to unveil the stamp here," said Cardinal Roger Mahony, as he helped to unveil the commemorative stamp honoring Varela at a ceremony here today.
More than 300 guests attended the 10:30 a.m. ceremony at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, including a choir from the Palm View Christian School who sang several songs before and during the ceremony, Members of El Coro de Los Angeles with Steve Grundy at piano also provided music for the event.
"Padre Varela dedicated his life to the service of others, especially young people, the sick and the poor," said Dr. Tirso del Junco, chairman, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. "He was considered a great defender of liberty, but above all, an exemplary priest, who led his ministry in New York City for more than 20 years." Doctor del Junco was the dedicating official.
Victor M. Cueto, Esq., president of the Cuba American Scholarship Fund, said that Padre Varela believed in educating the people, "much like our organization. He deserves this honor." CASF, a non-profit corporation, raises money and awards scholarships to students of Cuban descent on the university level.
In the early 1820s, Varela concentrated his efforts on helping poor minorities living in New York City, and founded nurseries and orphanages for the children of poor widows. He organized the New York Catholic Temperance Association, and virtually lived in hospitals while caring for cholera victims during an epidemic in 1832. As a result of his abilities and dedication, Varela was named Vicar General of the New York diocese.
Varela also founded the first Spanish newspaper in the U.S., publishing articles about human rights injustices suffered by minorities, as well as essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between English and Spanish speaking communities, and the importance of education.
Before coming to the U.S., Varela, who was born in 1788, was named Professor of Philosophy of the Seminary of San Carlos in Havana, Cuba, where he quickly distinguished himself as a great educator. During his professional career, Varela introduced numerous innovations in teaching and defending the principle -- then considered strange -- of giving women the same education as men.
Varela spent his last years in the city of St. Augustine, Fla., where he retired due to illness. He died in 1853, but his legacy endures, as two foundations named in his honor carry out his work in Miami and New York. The first day ceremony was held Sept. 15 in Miami, Fla. The stamp issuance helped kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month.
SOURCE United States Postal Service
CO: United States Postal Service
09/24/97 18:31 EDT http://www.prnewswire.com