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Deacon Mario Mendoza of St. Anthony dies at 86

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Deacon Mario Luis Mendoza, who served at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church for 30 years, died Nov. 21 at age 86 surrounded by his family. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mercedes.

Deacon Mendoza was born Nov. 30, 1934, in Cuba to Carlos Mendoza and Aurora Castilla. He was ordained to the diaconate May 23, 1987. Upon ordination, Arlington Bishop John Keating assigned him to work in the Spanish Apostolate. He served at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church from 1991 to 2021, where he helped establish and lead ministries such as Spanish Cursillo and Effeta Young Adult Ministry.

“The vibrancy of St. Anthony Parish has much to do with the dedication of Deacon Mendoza,” said Father Matthew H. Zuberbueler, pastor. “He shepherded numerous prayer groups, rooting them well so that they are still thriving to this day. In his later years, he had a special wisdom that comes from years of service to the Lord’s flock. He was a man at peace who looked forward to meeting his Lord.”

Father Zuberbueler noted that Deacon Mendoza was perhaps best known for his years teaching the baptismal preparation classes. He loved to keep track of the number of baptisms he had celebrated — 5,836. “But after that, he came in a wheelchair to celebrate the baptisms of two more of his great-grandchildren, bringing the total to 5,838,” said Father Zuberbueler. “He would always add that he had also celebrated 100 weddings and stopped there.”

Deacon Mendoza also helped start the Spanish-language Mass at St. Rita Church in Alexandria after the nearby Episcopalian church began offering services in Spanish that attracted local Catholics, said Father Zuberbueler. “Deacon would stand on the street corner to inform people that there was a Mass in Spanish now, inviting them to return home.”

A Mass of Christian burial was offered at St. Anthony of Padua Church Nov. 27, and his remains were interred at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington. 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

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