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Missionary priest served as pastor for the people

 
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Father Eric Vargas, 1948-2016

Father Eric Vargas SVD, who celebrated 40 years as a priest in December, died on Feb. 27 at Techny.

"Pope Francis once said, ‘The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.’ Eric fulfilled that mission," said Father Michael Hutchins SVD, a classmate of Father Vargas and rector of Divine Word Theologate. "He lived his life with his heart open to people in need."

Eric Vargas was born in New York City on May 9, 1948, the youngest of Frank and Josephine (nee Ortiz) Vargas’s four children. He joined the Society of the Divine Word at Bordentown, N.J., in 1963 and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. In 1972, he professed religious vows in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and was ordained to the priesthood at Bordentown three years later.

Father Vargas’s ministry took him to several shores. In the early years of his priesthood, he provided pastoral care for the people of San Miguel Arcangel (Saint Michael the Archangel) in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, and later ministered to Hispanic communities in Jersey City, N.J.

During his time on the East Coast, he was rector of the Divine Word community in Washington, D.C.; dean of students at Divine Word Seminary in Bordentown, N.J.; and chairman of the Divine Word Formation and Education Committee for minor seminaries in North America.

Father Vargas also was assigned to pastoral ministry in California. While on the West Coast, he served as a hospital chaplain in St. Bernardine Medical Center and the Community Hospital of San Bernardino; associate pastor of St. Patrick in Oakland; pastor of St. Anthony in San Bernardino; and pastor of St. Bernard in Oakland. He worked as a vocation director in Los Angeles.

In addition to his assignments from the Society of the Divine Word, he was a member of the Department of Worship Committee in the Diocese of Oakland and the Department of Religious Life in the Diocese of San Bernardino.

Due to health reasons, Father Vargas requested and was granted early retirement in 2004. He moved to Techny in 2008.

A wake for Father Vargas was held at the Divine Word Residence chapel at Techny on March 1, followed by a funeral Mass on March 2. He is buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

He is survived by his sister, Rita Santiago. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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