Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese and close friend of Msgr. Innocenzi, preaches the homily.
Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese and close friend of Msgr. Innocenzi, preaches the homily.
Of all the things that may have been said about Msgr. James G. Innocenzi’s 72 years of earthly life and 45 years of priestly ministry, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., probably put it best.

“This was a good man,” Bishop O’Connell said, as he spoke to the hundreds of loved ones and well-wishers who filled St. George Church, Titusville, for Msgr. Innocenzi’s Jan. 21 Mass of Christian Burial.

PHOTO GALLERY: Msgr. Innocenzi's Mass of Christian Burial

Msgr. Innocenzi, who, at the time of his death, presided over marriage annulment cases as the Diocese’s judicial vicar in the Tribunal Office, died Jan. 13 in Villa Vianney, the diocesan residence for retired priests.

Funeral services began with visitation Jan. 20 followed the next day’s Mass celebrated by the Bishop and concelebrated by 70 of Monsignor’s brother priests.

In his remarks after Communion, the Bishop acknowledged that he grieves the death of any priest, especially since he regards the priests as “members of my family.”

And the other priests, “lose a brother, a beloved brother. And that was true of Msgr. Innocenzi,” he said, adding that the number of priests in attendance of the Mass, “is a testament of the love they had for him.”

In his homily, Msgr. John K. Dermond, former judicial vicar who worked with Msgr. Innocenzi as a Tribunal judge, admitted that his close friend’s death came as a shock. He shared that “nine days ago, none of us could have imagined gathering so soon for a funeral Mass for Msgr. James Innocenzi.”

Although it was obvious in the past several months that he was becoming weaker and had several hospitalizations, “each time he bounced back and, as so many times in the past few years, plunged back into his priestly ministry and service,” Msgr. Dermond said.

“His death was truly unexpected, so, it’s natural to feel shock, disbelief or uncertainty going forward with our beloved Msgr. Jim no longer in our midst,” Msgr. Dermond said. “As we adjust to this new reality, we give thanks to God for all the good Msgr. Jim was able to accomplish throughout his life."

Msgr. Dermond recounted numerous memories that he and many others have of Msgr. Innocenzi – his pastoral approach to people, his dedication and perseverance, his untiring service as pastor of St. George Parish and prior to that of St. Michael Parish, Trenton; as a diocesan official; as chaplain to Trenton firefighters, and his service at various levels with the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of Trenton.

Recalling how Msgr. Innocenzi liked to cook and entertain, and his knowledge and passion for sports, Msgr. Dermond observed that Msgr. Innocenzi still “made time for daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary and more,” Msgr. Dermond said. “May our memories of Msgr. Jim spur us to continue the work to which he so dedicated himself.”

Judy Petrangeli, parish administrator in St. George Parish for 33 years, happily recalled the years she served with Msgr. Innocenzi during his pastorate from 2005-2015.

“He was a quiet man, and he loved his parishioners. He was an all-around good guy who was faithful to his work,” she said.

Petrangeli spoke of Msgr. Innocenzi as “a great boss” who trusted his staff and empowered them to do their jobs.

Family friend JoAnn Yanno, who met Msgr. Innocenzi during the years he was pastor of St. Michael Parish, recalled that he was in his 40s when his mother died. “The more he got to know my family, the more he became part of my family,” she said. “I considered him to be a true brother.”

Serving as the chaplain to the City of Trenton's firefighters was much more than just a title bestowed on Msgr. Innocenzi. That was a ministry he regarded as a priority and the love and concern he showed for them was genuine. 

John Gomba, a member of the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, recalled Msgr. Innocenzi's quiet visits to the firehouse where he would sit and pray for the safe return of the firefighters after . "And they all knew he would be there waiting for them," Gomba said. "He was very caring, always thinking of others."

John Panacek and Mark Cozens, both retired battalion fire chiefs, smiled when they referred to Msgr. Innocenzi as being a "true fire buff" and recalled any number of occasions when Msgr. Innocenzi would accompany the crew to the scene of the fire. He would stand at a safe distance and while the firefighters battled the blaze, "he would pray, not only for our safety but the safety of all who were involved.

"With his prayers, I think he managed to avert what could have been real fire disasters," said Panacek, a member of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown. "We always said that God was smiling down upon the Trenton Fire Department when a situation didn't turn into the tragedy we thought it would. That had to be because of Msgr. Innocenzi praying for us."

As a Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice in the Tribunal Office, Father Peter James Alindogan remembered Msgr. Innocenzi as being “a gentle, affable, and as his name implies, innocent-like, man of God.  

“He loved to read and to be engaged in his ministerial work,” said Father Alindogan, pastor of St. Veronica Parish, Howell, and diocesan Missions director. “I found him to be extremely patient in his dealings with our varied marriage cases.  Patience is one of the virtues required when accumulating evidence, examining testimonies and explaining the process of marriage nullity process, more so when cases are delayed or have a different outcome than expected.

“If there is anything that I would like to have more with me in my priesthood, with Msgr. Innocenzi as my guide, it would be the virtue of patience,” Father Alindogan said. “A man of patient innocence is now with our loving Lord.  The world is better because of his example.”