The Most Rev. Emil Wcela (pronounced “Sella”), Titular Bishop of Filaca and Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY since 1988 passed away on May 21 at age 91. Bishop Wcela was born on Long Island and was, in fact, the first native of what is now the Diocese of Rockville Centre to be named a bishop. Born May 1, 1931 in Bohemia, NY (somewhat fittingly as he was of Czech origin) he was ordained in 1956 for the Diocese of Brooklyn for the simple reason that the Diocese of Rockville Centre didn’t yet exist! In that year all of Long Island was still the Diocese of Brooklyn. In 1957 Pope Pius XII separated the two easternmost counties of Long Island from Brooklyn and erected the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Wcela was immediately incarnated into the new diocese.
I had the privilege of knowing Bishop Wcela. We met in 1993 when we were students together at the Language Institute that was then run by the Diocese of Brooklyn for those in ministry. We were both in Spanish class together.
Reluctant to become a bishop (he refused the first time it was offered to him) the arms that he assumed were reflective of things meaningful to him. I know from talking with him that he pretty much was told simply to sketch out on paper what he wanted and then the late Deacon Paul Sullivan “cleaned it up” a bit, painted it and wrote up a blazon. Considering the bishop was no expert in heraldry he didn’t do half badly! It is a bit crowded and it is definitely a “CV coat of arms”. Nevertheless, there is some logic to it and even a clever image thrown in as well.
The field is composed of the tripartite Czech flag which is red, white and blue. The book and crescent in chief evoke his many years serving as a Scripture professor and also Rector at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. The carpenter’s square and lily to dexter evoke St. Joseph whom the bishop looked to as a special patron and intercessor. To the sinister the blue wavy lines on the silver (white) field evoke the sea and the torteau in the center of it resembles an island. This is to signify his being the first native Long Islander raised to the episcopate. The bee on the torteau is for his surname, Wcela which is a variation of the Czech word “vcela” which means honeybee.
The motto, Grace and Peace, is a typical greeting used by St. Paul. Grace is the sum total of the gifts bestowed on humanity by God culminating in the gift of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Peace designates wholeness and the rightness of all relationships. God’s grace results in peace so the Church is the instrument of God’s Grace & Peace.
Bishop Wcela was a kind man; a good priest; a gentle shepherd. May he Rest in Peace.