Father Matthew Didoné, age 64, who has served as the Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission at 9600 West Atlantic Avenue in West Delray, was recently promoted to Provincial Superior of the Society of St. Charles Scalabrinians, based in Staten Island,
“Father Matthew,” as he has been affectionately called by the parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace since he was first assigned there in 1992, will now supervise the Eastern Region which includes: Colombia, Haiti, Venezuela, Canada, Dominican Republic and the eastern part of the United States from Upstate New York to Florida.
Arriving in America in 1964 at age 20 from Rosa, a small town in the foothills of the Alps 30 miles north of Venice, Italy he attended St. Charles Theological Seminary, Staten Island, N. Y. and was ordained in 1967. He learned to speak, read and write English during his first two years at the seminary. In 1974 he began a ten year assignment that took him to Puerto Rico and Caracas, Venezuela where he learned to speak fluent Spanish.
In 1999 and 2000 for one month each summer he traveled to Belo Horizonte, 150 miles north of Rio de Janeiro on the east coast of Brazil, and the nearby village of Coronel Fabriciano. A cousin there tutored him in Portuguese eight hours a day. In addition he participated in the local cultural and religious customs. This intensive study enabled him to communicate with the members of the Queen of Peace Mission who spoke only Portuguese. Seventy-five per cent of the members of this parish are poor Spanish and Portuguese speaking farm laborers from Central and South America. More than 3,000 families from Pompano Beach to West Palm Beach see the mission as their place of spiritual refuge.
Now this soft-spoken, much beloved priest leaves Delray Beach to greater responsibilities traveling internationally. His heart will always have a warm spot for the people he tended at Queen of Peace. Indeed, his new responsibility area also includes this Mission which began in a Quonset hut building in 1958 and is presently a beautiful, modern church building—a fitting tribute not only to the parishioners but to Father Didoné himself who put in so much effort and energy to oversee its construction. Interestingly, one of his duties will be to recruit a replacement for his position at Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Father Matthew also created the Mission Health Clinic on the church grounds for the migrant workers and their families to receive medical, dental and eye examinations and treatment from volunteers and five full-time staffers who tend to more than 1,500 patients a month. In addition there is a free standing building on the premises which has 10 class rooms where English is taught to the migrant worker families.
Since 1999, members of the Gleneagles Country Club, West Delray Beach established a Mission Clinic Luncheon and an Annual Honorees program. The honorees selected originally were mainly Gleneagles residents, honored for their help raising funds. Seven years ago, surrounding communities were invited to the annual luncheons with the proceeds used to further the growth of the Mission Clinic. The 50th Anniversary luncheon celebrated February 11, 2008 at Gleneagles Country Club attended by almost 400 people, honored two ladies who have served both the young and old migrant parishioners of the Mission directly for many years.
The two honorees, Conchy Arauz, Office Manager at Our Lady Queen of Peace and Minnie (Cortez) Garcia have much in common. Both are bilingual in Spanish and English. (Photo l. to r. Conchy Arauz, Father Didoné and Minnie (Cortez) Garcia.)
Father Didoné has built a legacy of compassion, care and dynamic growth during his 16 year tenure at the West Delray parish. The staff and parishioners look forward to his future occasional business visits to Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Those wishing to reach Our Lady Queen of Peace for information can call (561) 499-6234.