Obituary: Bishop Michael LaFay, Carmelite missionary, bishop in Peru

Chelsea native and longtime missionary in Peru, Bishop Michael LaFay, O. Carm., died on Oct. 20 at St. Patrick Manor, Framingham. Born on Nov. 11, 1934, he was the only son of the four children of the late William and Ernestine (Bardi) LaFay; there were three daughters: Louise, Ann, and Joan. Raised in St. Rose of Lima Parish, he attended the parish school before entering the Carmelite seminary, first at Hamilton and then at Whitefriars Hall, the Carmelite seminary near the Catholic University of America in the national capital.

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah F. Minihan ordained him to the priesthood at the seminary chapel in Hamilton on June 4, 1960. His classmate from that happy day is Father Herbert Jones, O.Carm., now retired and living in Haverhill.

Father LaFay's initial assignment was as a teacher at Mount Carmel High School, Chicago, Ill. When a request for volunteers for the Carmelite mission in Peru was issued, he volunteered and remained in Peru for the next almost half century. He was named pastor in Nuestra Senora del Carmen, one of the many large parishes in Lima and, there, made friends among the members of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle. He pursued graduate studies, first in Lima and then at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.

He was named a bishop by Pope St. John Paul II in July 1999 and the retired archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, SJ, ordained him to the episcopate at the metropolitan cathedral in Lima.

Made a diocese in 2020, Sicuani was up until then a territorial prelature, when Bishop LaFay was named. Previously, it had been entrusted to the pastoral care of the Carmelites, the first bishop prelate having been Nevin W. Hayes, O. Carm. For 28 years after Bishop Hayes returned to the United States as an auxiliary of the archdiocese of Chicago, the diocese was governed by a Carmelite priest, Father Alban Quinn, who served as the "interim" apostolic administrator for a quarter century before Bishop LaFay's arrival.

Bishop LaFay served his people high in the Andes Mountains for almost 14 years as their chief shepherd. He resigned the prelature in 2013 and was succeeded by a native Peruvian priest, now Bishop Pedro Alberto Bustamante Lopez.

When Bishop LaFay returned to the Boston area, he lived initially in Marlborough, but was beset by dementia and had been for some time under the diligent care of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm at St. Patrick Manor, Framingham, where he died on Oct. 20, 2021.

A Funeral Mass was to be celebrated on Oct. 30 at St. Bartholomew Church, Needham. At his request, the bishop will be buried in Sicuani.