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Slain NJ priest laid to rest

October 31, 2009 6:01:12 PM PDT
A Roman Catholic priest who was stabbed to death in his rectory was remembered Saturday as a "quiet voice of peaceful love" at his burial Mass in northern New Jersey. More than 1,000 people filled St. Patrick Church and its gymnasium to honor the Rev. Edward J. Hinds, who was found dead on the kitchen floor after he failed to appear for morning Mass Oct. 23. Authorities say he had been stabbed 32 times the day before by church custodian Jose Feliciano.

"There was nothing in his life that could have provoked such a violent attack," said Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, a retired priest who met monthly with Hinds.

The crowd included about 200 area priests and nuns. Clergy in flowing white robes formed a half-circle around the hearse as Hinds' coffin was carried down the church stairs and placed inside.

"We pray for him and we pray for healing and love in this community," Bishop Arthur Serratelli, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, said after the Mass. "It's going to take some time."

Hinds' violent death is the first for upscale Chatham since 1990. The New York City bedroom community has about 10,000 residents and a median family income of $132,000.

The coffin was draped in white during the two-hour Mass, which was followed by a private burial at a cemetery in nearby Basking Ridge.

Parishioner Ed DiRienzo remembered 61-year-old "Father Ed" as a gentle, quiet man who drew on a deep well of wisdom in his role as church leader. He recalled a conversation they had three years ago when he approached the priest to apologize for a church service disturbed by the cries of his newborn son.

"He was very much about children and families," said DiRienzo, 41. "He said, 'By no means should you ever apologize for that. We love the chatter of the little children.' " Clergy recalled Hinds as a model priest with an advanced degree in church law who gave up a position in the diocese hierarchy to return to parish life. He was found in his clerical robes and appeared to be brewing coffee at the time of his attack.

Hinds, who was born in nearby Morristown, had been at the parish since 2003. He was ordained in 1974 and served as vice chancellor of the Diocese of Paterson and secretary to the bishop from 1978 to 1985. Hinds previously was pastor of St. Michael Church in Netcong and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Boonton.

Sister Nicholas Campasano, of the Sisters of Christian Charity order, said that she spoke with Hinds a few hours before his death.

She told him about a man who needed marital counseling, but was not part of Hinds' parish. She knew that Hinds was busy with his own congregation, but felt he could connect with the man.

"He told me, 'I'm not too busy, send him over,' " Campasano said.

Hinds was slain before he could keep that vow.

Feliciano, 64, is being held on $1 million bail. The Easton, Pa., resident is being treated at the Ann Klein Forensic Center, a psychiatric hospital in Trenton. He and his wife and children are members of the parish. His daughter is an 8th grader at St. Patrick School and his son is a graduate of the program, which runs from kindergarten through 8th grade.

According to court documents, Hinds had discussed firing Feliciano with a colleague one day before his death after learning the custodian had not been subjected to a criminal background check. It's not clear if Hinds knew Feliciano had been arrested in Philadelphia in 1988 for charges of indecent assault, simple assault and corrupting the morals of a minor.

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