BUFFALO, NY - Funeral arrangements have been announced for a popular Roman Catholic priest, who was found dead inside Saint Lawrence Church in Buffalo over the weekend.
A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Friday morning at 10 o'clock. Father Moreno will be interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Police spokesman Michael DeGeorge announced that the findings of the Medical Examiner's office through an autopsy concluded that Father Moreno died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound.
Western New York's Catholic community is still in shock as they remember a generous man suddenly taken away. A memorial service and candlelight vigil were held Sunday evening at Saint Lawrence Church in for Father Moreno, who was found dead inside the church by an employee.
Filling the pews of the church were people who loved "Father Joe." They relied on him to be their guiding star in life. He served the church for five years as sacramental minister and was a priest for 26 years. For some people, there are things about Father Joe they'll never forget.
"His smile, him helping everybody knowing that they can count on him as a friend," said Megan Bisantz, who was at the service.
One man who worked with Father Joe said, "He's always asking what do you need, what do you guys need? Father Joe, how could I help? And that's what I'm going to miss."
Parishioners gathered by the church's rectory to fill the night sky with candles and released balloons to their angel in heaven.
The rectory is where church Deacon Paul Weisenberger says he discovered Father Joe's body alongside a gun Saturday. Buffalo police don't suspect foul play and autopsy results are expected Monday.
Deacon Weisenberger says Father Joe's spirit will live on.
"It helped so many people if you saw the people who use the pediatric clinic, if you saw the kids that use the school here, it's heart warming because these are people who would not have that chance," he said.
Bishop Richard Malone has announced the reappointment of Deacon Weisenburger and his wife, Mary, as pastoral administrators, effective immediately. They will remain in place until a new leader of the parish is appointed. There is no timetable for that appointment to be made.
The Weisenburgers have led the parish for the past six years, and were planning to retire. During a meeting Monday morning at the Catholic Center with Bishop Malone, the couple agreed to postpone their retirement.
"I am most grateful to Deacon Paul and Mary Weisenburger for their willing acceptance to continue in their ministry to the parish," Bishop Malone said in a statement. "Despite their own personal grief in the loss of a dear friend, they have agreed to remain in place in order to continue to provide pastoral care and leadership to the St. Lawrence faith community, allowing for the healing process to begin."
Prior to Father Moreno's passing, Bishop Malone had appointed Father Francis "Butch" Mazur to be temporary administrator of St. Lawrence. That appointment has been rescinded. Father Mazur will continue in his role as chaplain at Erie County Medical Center and as the bishop's representative on inter-faith matters.
At another mass on Sunday at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, where Bishop Malone presided, he said, "I say to [parishioners that] I understand the pain and the suffering that they're going through and I know I can't take it away, but I'm with them in prayer and other ways, we're going to provide counseling for those of course who need it," he said after the service.
Bishop Malone says that he wanted to strike the right balance during the service to respect Father Joe's passing, while still uplifting parishioners in this Year of Faith.
"It was like a punch in the stomach and I woke up again this morning and felt that hollowness. I call upon my faith, and what we were saying in this special mass for the Interfaith, I really believe that Christ in his resurrection conquers death ultimately, so there's hope here," he said.
While people mourn this loss, there are still many questions about Father Joe's death. Bishop Malone says Father Joe was being reassigned to somewhere outside the church. Malone says he supported Father Joe's interest in becoming a hospital chaplain.
Sources say even though he told Bishop Malone that he would take the position, he did not want to leave Saint Lawrence. Bishop Malone gave no reason why he was being reassigned.
Multiple sources tell 2-On-Your-Side that Father Joe was given a letter last week informing him that he would be reassigned and that he would have a week to leave the church. Deacon Weisenberger believes Father Joe was pushed too hard to leave the church and just, "snapped."