The leader of a Little Havana church that became a home for Catholic Cubans fleeing the communist revolution has died.

Monsignor Emilio Vallina died Saturday in Miami. He was 87.

Vallina became the leader of the San Juan Bosco Catholic Church when it was founded in the early 1960s.

The church was initially located in a movie theater and later an old car dealership Vallina helped transform. He remained at the church’s helm until retiring more than 40 years later.

In that time, Vallina and the church helped many new Cuban arrivals struggling to re-establish themselves in a foreign land. The church became known as the “exile’s cathedral.”

In a homily delivered Sunday, Archbishop Thomas Wenksi said parishioners should celebrate the footprint Vallina left in all of their lives.

An educator who established nearly 30 churches and founded St. Paul’s College is being honored with the dedication of a state historical marker.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources was to unveil the James Solomon Russell marker Saturday at U.S. Route 1 and Palmer Springs Road.

Russell was born into slavery in Mecklenberg County in 1857.

After the Civil War and emancipation, he attended Hampton Institute and St. Stephen’s Normal and Theological School and was ordained in 1882.

That same year, he founded the St. Paul Normal and industrial Institute, which began St. Paul’s College, in Lawrenceville.

Associated Press