Padre Varela dedicated his life to the service of others, especially young people, the sick and the poor," said Dr. Tirso del Junco, chairman, U.S. Postal Service board of governors. "He was considered a great defender of liberty, but above all, an exemplary priest, who led his ministry in New York City for more than 20 years."
In the early 1820s, Varela concentrated his efforts on helping poor minorities living in New York City, and founded nurseries and orphanages for the children of poor widows. He organized the New York Catholic Temperance Association, and lived in hospitals while caring for cholera victims during an epidemic in 1832. As a result of his abilities and dedication, Varela was named Vicar General of the New York diocese.
Varela also founded the first Spanish newspaper in the United States, publishing articles about human rights, as well as essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between English and Spanish speaking communities, and the importance of education. Before coming to the United States, Varela, who was born in 1788, was named Professor of Philosophy of the Seminary of San Carlos in Havana, Cuba, where he quickly distinguished himself as a great educator.
During his professional career, Varela introduced numerous innovations in teaching and defending the principle -- then considered strange -- of giving women the same education as men. Varela spent his last years in the city of St. Augustine, FL, where he retired due to illness. He died in 1853, but his legacy endures, as two foundations named in his honor carry out his work in Miami and New York.