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Brooklyn mourns the death of beloved pastor Father Joseph Gancila

DYKER HEIGHTS — If ever a clergy member’s ministry embodied the essence of faith in Brooklyn, it was Father Joseph Gancila, who died on Monday, January 6, at the age of 50. After stints in churches throughout the borough, the beloved priest was serving as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Dyker Heights at the time of his death.

Gancila was born in Brooklyn and attended the parish school at Regina Pacis and Xaverian High School. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn on June 2, 2001.

In addition to his most current assignment, during his career, he served as a parochial vicar at St. Mary Mother of Jesus in Bensonhurst, Sacred Heart in Glendale, Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge and St. Bernadette in Dyker Heights.

Gancila was remembered by Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the vicar for communication for the Diocese of Brooklyn, as the quintessential parish priest. Harrington knew Gancila for 22 years and was also a classmate of his at the seminary. “This is a man who loved being a priest in every ounce of his being,” Harrington told this paper.

“He recorded in his own hand the names of every person he ever offered a mass for or prayed for over the course of his 19 years as a priest. There were volumes and volumes of diaries listing those names,” he added.

Harrington explained that Gancila had a number of health issues and that he had been born prematurely with little hope that he would survive. “It affected his quality of life but he would always bear that suffering with great joy, and his joy was infectious to every person with whom he came into contact,” he said. “He was especially devoted to the sick, and so he made it his business to offer consolation and solidarity to those who were sick and suffering.”

A vigil mass was offered on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, 7201 15th Avenue. The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop of Brooklyn, was the main celebrant of the mass.

The funeral mass for Gancila took place Thursday, Jan. 9, at Our Lady of Guadalupe, with Auxiliary Bishop James Massa serving as the principal celebrant. Msgr. Robert J. Romano, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, co-celebrated the mass, also with Msgr. Thomas Caserta, Msgr. Andrew Vaccari and Father Christopher Bethge.

Father Casper Furnari, pastor emeritus of Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows, delivered the homily.

Furnari, a longtime friend of Gancila, called him “a quiet person” during an interview with The Tablet. He also noted that despite his lifelong health issues, Gancila didn’t allow illness to prevent him from becoming a priest.

“He was so dedicated to our Lord,” said Furnari. “He loved being a priest. He did a lot of things without any fanfare.”

Bethge told The Tablet that he had lost a mentor, a role model and a friend, and called Gancila “one of the best priests I have ever met — the one who first inspired me to be a priest.”

Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, was saddened to hear the news about Gancila. “I am sorry to hear about the passing of Fr. Joseph Gancila,” Vella-Marrone told this paper. 

“Among his assignments, he served the Dyker Heights parishes of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Guadalupe. He will be greatly missed and my condolences go out to his loved ones and the parishioners he served,” she added. “The Dyker Heights community is richer because of his ministry.”  

Gancila was buried at the Columbarium of the Basilica of Regina Pacis. He is survived by his parents, Louis and Joan Gancila; his sisters, Debbie Gaudino and Linda Marioni; and several nieces and nephews.

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