Board members, staff, donors and community members expressed their sadness at the loss of Eva’s Village founder, Rev. Msgr. Vincent E. Puma, who died peacefully at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home, Cedar Grove, NJ, where he had been living for the past several years.
Honoring Msgr. Puma:
A funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday, June 6 at St. Vincent Martyr Parish, Madison, NJ followed by interment at the church cemetery. The family of Msgr. Puma respectfully asks that donations be made to Eva’s Village, this wonderful legacy he provided. (Visit Eva’s donation page here).
We were fortunate to have been able to honor Msg. Puma at several recent events where he enjoyed the fellowship of Eva's supporters and we will honor his life and many efforts for the poor at our 2012 Gala, on November 8, 2012.
About Msgr. Vincent E. Puma:
Msgr. Puma previously resided at Cedar Crest Village, Pompton Plains, NJ, where he served as chaplain to the many residents who came to rely on him for spiritual guidance. Born on December 12, 1926, he resided in Madison, NJ, for most of his life as a young adult.
A graduate of Seton Hall Preparatory School, South Orange, NJ and St. Charles College, Catonsville, MD, he attended St. Mary's Seminary and Immaculate Conception Seminary, Baltimore, MD. He was ordained on May 19, 1951. He later obtained a Master's degree from Drew University, Madison, NJ, and was a licensed therapist with an ED.S. from Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. Msgr. Puma was named Papal Chamberlain in 1963 (Monsignor) and Prelate of Honor in 1980 (Right Reverend Monsignor).
Young Father Puma shared his wealth of knowledge and thirst for learning with others. He was an instructor of theology from 1951 to 1955 at Pope Pius High School in Passaic, NJ. He brought his expertise to St. Mary's High School in Paterson, NJ, from 1955 to 1959 and at the university level, he was a guest lecturer in pastoral-psychological problems, in 1975 and 1977, at Drew University in Madison, NJ.
Initially an associate pastor, he served at Sacred Heart Church in Clifton, NJ, from 1951 to 1954. Monsignor Puma has been pastor at four churches, Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Dover, NJ, serving as pastor from 1959 to 1963. From 1963 to 1971 he was pastor at Our Lady of Victories in Paterson, NJ and from 1971 to 1979, he was pastor at his home parish of Saint Vincent Martyr, in Madison, NJ. While serving as Pastor of Blessed Sacrament, Paterson, from 1979 to 1981 he began to plant the seeds of his life’s mission: to serve the poor.
Gathering the help of religious and lay people in the Diocese of Paterson, he founded Eva’s Kitchen in the basement of St. John’s Cathedral, Paterson, serving 30 people in April, 1982. After founding Eva's Kitchen, he followed with sheltering, substance abuse treatment and medical programs and renamed the now comprehensive social service organization as Eva’s Village, fulfilling his vision of an entire village dedicated to caring for people struggling to find a way out of poverty.
Msgr. Puma made his final visit to Eva’s Village on April 19, 2012 to celebrate its 30th Anniversary and to dedicate the recent Kitchen expansion. “Testimonials from clients, staff, volunteers and donors streamed into our office in celebration of Eva’s 30th Anniversary on April 19,” commented Marie Reger, Executive Director of Eva’s Village, “We were so pleased to share these loving statements with Msgr. and he bid us all a final farewell by thanking his staff, volunteers and donors for 30 years of hard work, but it is we who are indebted to him for showing us the way to help the poor.”
Until his health failed, Msgr. Puma remained a steadfast supporter of Eva’s Village, bringing busloads of people to Paterson to see the work being done. “Msgr. Puma’s legacy is not in the bricks and mortar of Eva’s Village, but in all who share his vision of how to best help the poor,” said John Crimi, a close friend and a past President of Eva’s Village, “Msgr. was given two sets of eyes, one in his head and the other in his heart; we will now have to use the eyes of our hearts for the poor to see and feel their need and the reality of the life they live. Msgr. often said, ‘When you take someone’s hand you cannot drop it until they are safe from poverty.’ He has now put those hands in ours and we will honor him every day in our hearts, our minds, and in our daily work at Eva’s Village.”
Throughout his lifetime, Msgr. Puma served in many civic and religious leadership capacities, including Director of the Cuban Relief Program from 1961-1965; Director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Diocese of Paterson from 1964- 1971; and Chairman of Paterson United Against Drug Abuse.
He was honored as Man of the Year by St. Joseph's Hospital, Paterson, NJ in 1992, received the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service in 1987 and the Paterson Humanitarian Award in 1970. In October 1995 the Hispanic Community of the Diocese of Paterson awarded him the Pioneer for the Hispanic Ministry Award. Also in October 1995 he received the Community Service Award from The Bergen Record. In 2009, Eva's Village bestowed a lifetime Achievement Award to Msgr. Puma at the Annual Gala held to support Eva’s feeding, sheltering and addiction programs.
On May 19, 2011, he was joined by his family and friends at a celebration in honor of his 60th Jubilee.