Father Peter DeMarco
BRIDGEPORT—Father Peter DeMarco, widely loved for his deep spirituality and for his ministry to the hearing impaired, died on July 20 in Bridgeport Hospital. He was 80 years old.
Born with a cleft palate leading to speech problems, and experiencing progressive hearing loss during adulthood, Father DeMarco turned what could have been an impediment into a beautiful asset to his ministry.
“God presents a lot of opportunities,” he said in 1988 during a day of recreation for deaf children at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. Moving comfortably among both the hearing and the deaf, “I can be a bridge between both worlds. I’ve never had any restrictions on me whatsoever.”
The Bridgeport native was born November 8, 1934, and attended Garfield elementary school and Fairfield Prep. He graduated from Fairfield University, where he learned sign language so he could volunteer at Mass for the hearing-impaired. He completed his theological studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Md., writing his thesis on teaching religion to the deaf.
Father DeMarco was ordained on May 21, 1960 in St. Augustine Cathedral by Bishop Lawrence Shehan, first Bishop of Bridgeport. His first parish assignment after ordination was at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, followed by Sacred Heart Parish in Stamford.
In 1967, he was named the first full-time director of special education in the diocese. At that time, the office included special needs children and adults, and blind, deaf and hearing-impaired Catholics. He resided first at St. Raphael Parish in Bridgeport and then at Holy Family Parish in Fairfield.
In 1974 Father DeMarco was named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bethel, a position he held for nearly a dozen years. He was a member of the first Priests’ Council in the Diocese of Bridgeport, a vicar for Vicariate V and a priest advisor to Juvenile Court.
In 1986, dealing with worsening hearing, he chose to leave St. Mary’s and became spiritual moderator for the special education office. In 1989, he was named diocesan moderator of the Ministry of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired while taking an assignment as parochial vicar at St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull. In addition, in 1990, he served as temporary administrator of St. Gabriel Parish in Stamford.
Over the years he has been the spiritual advisor to the Cursillo movement, and leaves behind several meditative prayer groups that continue to meet to this day. Throughout his priesthood he continued to work with ministry to the deaf.
He was named parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull in 1999, and retired to the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests’ Residence in 2006.
A wake for Father DeMarco will be held at the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Rd., Trumbull, on Sunday, July 26, from 2-6 pm. The Mass for Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Theresa Parish, Trumbull, on Monday, July 27, at 11 am. Father Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, will be the principal celebrant. Msgr. Nicholas Grieco will give the homily. Burial will follow in the family gravesite in St. Michael Cemetery in Stratford.
Father DeMarco is mourned by many family members and friends, who will miss his smile and gentle spirit.