Father Dominic P. Irace, former rector of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, died Sept. 1 at his home in Florida from complications from diabetes. He was 73.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 6 at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Wellington, Fla., followed by burial at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Cemetery in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Father Paul D. Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy and director of the diaconate formation program, attended the funeral on behalf of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and the diocese.
“It was with great sadness that I heard about the death of Father Dominic Irace," said Bishop Loverde in a statement released Sept. 8. "When I first arrived at the Diocese of Arlington, Father Irace was serving as rector of the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More. Later, he went on to serve as pastor of the Parish of Saint Ambrose in Annandale. Plagued by ill health, Father Irace retired and joined his family in Florida. On his passing, I join so many in giving thanks for his generous priestly witness of 41 years, and in commending the repose of his soul to our prayers. May the Good Shepherd give him eternal life in our true home in heaven.”
Father Irace was born Nov. 24, 1942, in New York, N.Y., to Pasquale and Angela Irace. He had three sisters, Anne, Florence and Camille, and a brother, Charles. He attended Public School No. 3 and graduated from Evander Childs High School in New York in 1960, and Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Conn., in 1971. Father Irace studied voice and oboe at the Julliard School of Music for two years before earning master's degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in 1974, and the Gregorian University in Rome in 1975.
In an interview with the Catholic Herald at the time of his retirement in 2009, he recalled these years of studying in Europe as some of the most amazing times of his life.
“Going to Rome and studying there, in the heart of the church, right there in that beautiful city, was a wonderful experience,” he said. “Living with the sights and sounds and tastes of Rome, you just become intoxicated. You come back a much broader person than if you had stayed in the U.S.”
Father Irace was ordained by Pope Paul VI at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome June 29, 1975,. He was assigned to the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington as parochial vicar 1975-78; St. Ambrose Parish in Annandale 1978-81; St. Luke Parish in McLean 1981-86; and St. Mary Parish in Fredericksburg 1986-87.
Father Irace was administrator at St. Mary in 1987, and pastor of St. Louis Parish in Alexandria 1987-94. He was appointed Cathedral rector in 1994 and served there until 2003, when he was appointed pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale. He retired from St. Ambrose in 2009, and moved to West Palm Beach, Fla.
He was a member of the board of directors of the Paul VI Institute of the Arts from 1980-89 and was director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy 1984-99. He wrote Gospel commentaries for the Catholic Herald for many years.
Father Irace once said he enjoyed being at the Cathedral shortly after the Arlington Diocese was established in August 1974. He remembered working closely with Bishop Thomas J. Welsh and, through his work as director of the office of liturgy, developing a close bond with his successor, Bishop John R. Keating. He also enjoyed being able to serve multiple assignments at the Cathedral and St. Ambrose.
“I had two unique experiences of returning to parishes where I had already been,” Father Irace said. “That’s great because you know the people, you have friends there who you’re going back to, and you have a surer grip of the parish — how it operates, how the people think and what they expect.”