Father Benliro was fixture at St. Mary Magdalene parish

Father Fernando Benliro enjoyed the routines of his life as an archdiocesan priest.

That life included teaching Spanish and coaching tennis for high schoolers, and offering Mass and reconciliation to downtown Omaha commuters at St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Father Benliro, who retired in 2003 and moved to Las Vegas to be with family, continued to serve as a priest, particularly to the Filipino community there. But that ministry was cut short when he was killed in a three-vehicle collision on Dec. 20. He was 86.

A funeral Mass was held Dec. 30 at St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Church in Las Vegas.

He was a regular fixture at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in downtown Omaha, where he resided and served as an associate pastor for most of his years there, said retired Msgr. James Gilg, a former pastor at the parish.

Father Benliro attended Santo Tomas Seminary and St. Vincent Seminary in the Philippines, and was ordained in 1958.

He came to Omaha in 1967 to continue his education and was recruited as a Spanish teacher at the former Archbishop Ryan High School in Omaha and later at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue, Msgr. Gilg said. 

Father Benliro taught and coached tennis at Ryan in the late 1960s and at Gross Catholic from the 1970s until the mid-’90s. He coached one Gross Catholic girls team to a state championship, Msgr. Gilg said.

Father Benliro enjoyed his life in the archdiocese and decided to stay, and was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1992. He lived at St. Mary Magdalene his entire time in Omaha.

He had a faithful downtown following who loved his homilies, which were “short and to the point,” Msgr. Gilg said.

Father Benliro was close to his family, which included those in his native Philippines and a brother, nieces and nephews in Las Vegas, his former pastor said. 

Father Benliro didn’t have a lot of hobbies but he enjoyed good food, watching movies and following high school sports.

“He liked things predictable,” Msgr. Gilg said, including his regular Mass times and seeing the regulars at Mass. It “was a good life for him.”

He “was a very stable element” and “a comforting fixture” at St. Mary Magdalene, Msgr. Gilg said. Many people are “thanking God for his presence and ministry.”

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