The Port Arthur News
Southeast Texans are mourning the loss of a longtime Roman Catholic priest who led local parishes in Port Arthur, Orange and Groves.
The Rev. Joseph J. Romero died Sunday from a long-standing illness. He was 71.
Funeral services, under the direction of Grammier-Oberle Funeral Home in Port Arthur, are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, 3706 Woodrow Drive, Port Arthur. Burial will follow at Greenlawn Cemetery.
Visitation is from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday at the church. Rosary starts at 7 p.m.
Romero was known as a friendly, caring and gentle man — one who loved his parishioners, and one who had a deep and abiding relationship with God.
Curtis J. Guillory, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, described Romero as a “pastor’s pastor.”
“He had a love for people; he knew his people, he brought Christ to people in words, sacrament, and in his own person. He was a very gentle, very approachable person, a good man who was good to people,” Guillory said.
In addition to serving God together, the two men shared a love of Cajun food because of their Louisiana roots.
Guillory, a native of Mallet, La., near Ophalousa, and Romero, with roots in New Iberia, both loved food from the Pelican State.
“He and I hit it off right away. We both liked boudain, and we both liked gumbo,” Guillory said.
Guillory said he will be performing mass for his longtime friend, whom he knew for the past 13 years since first coming to the Beaumont diocese.
Romero served as priest at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Port Arthur from 1993 until 2003, the Rev. David Plasette, priest at St. Catherine’s, said.
Romero was first ordained in 1969, and served as priest three years at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Orange, then at St. James Catholic Church in Orange, Sacred Heart in Nacogdoches, St. Peter’s in Groves, before his last post at St. Catherine’s.
Placette, 60, said he and Romero have been friends for many years.
“I trained under him, we traveled together. In every parish he did his work caring for people,” Placette said.
Romero had a very personal and private relationship with God. He was friendly to people and people were attracted to his personality, Placette said. “He would help anyone in any way he could, and had a lot of friends.”
Romero’s path to priesthood was not typical. He first attended the University of Texas, where he studied to become a pharmacist, Placette said.
“He was pulled away from that by God, and became a priest. When God calls you to do something; it is a powerful call,” Placette said.
The Rev. Jim Sichko, 46, of Richmond, Kentucky, remembers Romero from his youth when he attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Orange.
“I remember he had a fantastic smile and preached well,” Sichko, now a priest in the Diosese of Lexington, Kentucky, said.
As a boy, Sichko recalled the time he and other elementary-school aged youngsters were talking during mass. When it was time for communion, Romero asked the boys to remain.
“I remember I got up and said I know he did not mean me,” Sichko said.
Even as a boy, Sichko said he remembers Romero’s great smile and vibrant personality.
“He lived his vocation very well and challenged all of us to do the same,” Sichko said. “I remember him very well; it is because of good men like him that I became a priest today.”