Hispanic community mourns loss of religious leader

Father Filemón Juya, 56, died on June 30 after battling cancer for nearly four years.

RICHLAND COUNTY (WACH) -- Members of the Hispanic community are mourning the loss of Father Filemn Juya, 56, a devoted priest who served the Catholic Church for 18 years.

He was a wonderful man. He taught people how to be better and not take things for granted, says Jennifer Feliciano of St. John Neumann Catholic Church.

In 1996, Father Juya moved to the Diocese of Charleston, where he became a leader in its ministry to Spanish-speaking people.

His first assignment was as administrator of St. John of the Cross in Batesburg-Leesville. During his time there, he celebrated six Masses at five different churches on the weekends and spent the rest of the week ministering to residents across South Carolina.

Bishop Robert J. Baker called him "one of the great leaders" of the Hispanic community in the state. He was instrumental in helping formulate a pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry in the diocese.

Nearly 700 people attended his funeral on Wednesday. Father Juya had been battling cancer for nearly four years.

Many of his followers say he was an inspiration.

He was a good friend and leader. He was ahead of us in ideas, in spirit, and in ideals for the community, said Choir Director Roberto Belen of St. John Neumann Catholic Church.

Belen adds Father Juya will not only be greatly missed, he will also be very hard to replace.