The title “Father” was a natural fit for Father Luis Salcedo when he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1989. The 68-year-old native of Colombia had been a widower for decades following the death of his beloved wife Inez of a brain tumor, and he had three children and three grandchildren.

When Cardinal James Hickey, then the archbishop of Washington, imposed hands on Father Salcedo’s head on his ordination day, the new priest had tears in his eyes. From his childhood, he had been drawn to the priesthood, and those feelings intensified in the years after his wife’s death. 

“When I was alone, I decided to dedicate myself to God,” he said.

In a later interview, Father Salcedo said his only regret was “maybe my priesthood time will be short.” But he noted that in his life, he had come to expect the unexpected, and he added, “My father died at 99.”

Father Salcedo, who retired as a parish priest in 2006, died on July 12 at the age of 99, reaching the same milestone as his father. Before he died, he was the oldest living priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. Rather than having a short priesthood, he was able to serve as a priest for 31 years. And fittingly, he died surrounded by family members at the home of his daughter, Amparo Marco, in Agawam, Massachusetts, where he had lived since his retirement.

“We had the pleasure of having him for 14 years (at our home),” she said. “It was a blessing from God. I was really able to enjoy my father to the fullest.”

Marco said Father Salcedo would celebrate daily Mass at the house for her and her husband Thomas. “It meant so much to him, and it meant so much to us,” she said, adding that in his early years of retirement, her father also celebrated Mass at a nearby parish and heard Confessions there.

Father Salcedo’s Funeral Mass will be celebrated on July 20 at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A native of Versalles, Colombia, Luis Salcedo was born on May 24, 1921 to the late Luis and Hermelinda Salcedo. He was one of 18 children in their family – nine girls and nine boys. In Colombia, he worked as a high school math teacher. After his wife’s death, he and his three children immigrated to the United States, and he worked in various jobs while earning a master’s degree in accounting from Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts.

One year after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1971, he began working as an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service in Hartford, Connecticut, and he later moved to Washington, where he worked as a IRS program analyst. He retired from working for the government in 1987.

He was ordained as a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1986 and served at St. James Parish in Mount Rainier. Then he pursued his dream of becoming a priest, studying at Oblate College before his 1989 ordination to the priesthood.

Before his retirement, Father Salcedo served as a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.; St. James in Mount Rainier; and St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda, Maryland. He had a special responsibility of serving the Spanish-speaking communities in those parishes, where he celebrated Masses and heard Confessions in Spanish and English.

In an interview, he said those parish families greeted him warmly, and when they learned that he too had a family, they called him a “special priest.” One lady, he said, told him, “I will give you a huge embrace that will break your ribs.”

Father Salcedo said his experiences gave him insights into the challenges that parishioners faced, and he said it broke his heart to see how many marriages fail. “It hurts me so much,” he said. “I would like every couple to be united in love the rest of their lives.”

Amparo Marco, his daughter, said that while they were in public, she called him “Father Salcedo,” but added that at the home where they lived together during the last years of his life, “I called him ‘Dad.’ I never stopped calling him my daddy.”

To his three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Father Salcedo was their abuelito (“grand-daddy”).

Father Salcedo achieved his dream of becoming a priest in 1989 at the age of 68, and served in that role for more than three decades before dying at the age of 99 on July 12.

Father Salcedo is survived by his son Hernando and his wife Margoth; by his daughter Amparo and her husband, Thomas Marco; by his grandchildren Luis H. Salcedo, Alex Salcedo and his wife Jeannine, Claudia Criscitalli and her husband Mark; and by his great grandchildren Joseph and Michael Salcedo and Ryan Criscitalli. He is also survived by his remaining brothers and sisters and by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. Father Salcedo was predeceased by his wife Inez and his son Roney. 

The online announcement of Father Salcedo’s death noted, “Father was a humble man with an inquisitive mind and a thirst for knowledge. His quest for each day that God granted him was to learn something new.”

His daughter said the priest’s mind remained sharp during his last years, and she added, “His hobby was reading. I never saw him without a book, a prayer book, religious books, regular books.”

She said it was an inspiration to witness the depth of his faith and of his love for God and the Blessed Mother, and his kind, gentle demeanor.

“As a father, he did the best for us. He was always there for us. His love was unconditional. He was there every step of the way,” she said.

And reflecting on her father’s life as a family man and as a priest, Amparo Marco said, “To me, he gave it all.”

When Father Salcedo was ordained as one of 10 new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1989, that marked the archdiocese’s largest ordination class in decades. The other priests ordained in that class include: Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout; Father Rory Conley, the pastor of St. Mary’s in Bryantown; Father Lee Fangmeyer, the pastor of Mother Seton in Germantown; Msgr. Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in Washington; Father Ronald Potts, the pastor of Sacred Heart in Bowie; Father George Stuart, the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for canonical services; and Msgr. James Watkins, the pastor of St. Ann Parish in Washington. Of that priesthood class of 1989, Father G. William Finch, Father James Betz and Father Salcedo are deceased.