Priest’s life cut short after five decades of service

Feb 1, 2024

PALM BAY | Father Robert “Bob” Hoeffner and his sister, Sally, were tragically murdered in their home Jan. 28, 2024. Born to parents Bernard and Margaret Aug. 20, 1947, in Queens, New York, Father Hoeffner was one of eight children.

He moved to Fort Pierce as a young child, where his family kept citrus groves. In middle school, through the influence of three priests who were friends of the family, the young man considered the priesthood. At 14, when it was time for high school, he chose to enter St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. He then attended St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, and was ordained April 28, 1973, by Bishop William D. Borders at St. Anastasia Parish in Fort Pierce for the Diocese of Orlando.

His first assignment was at Good Shepherd Parish in Orlando, followed by teaching at Bishop Moore Catholic High School, and then directing the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park where he ran summer camps and retreats for two years. In 1976, he Hoeffner would serve as the director of liturgy and Bishop Thomas Grady’s master of ceremonies. During this time, he also began celebrating the TV Mass, something he would continue to do for 28 years. He was named Vicar Forane and served as member of the Presbyteral Council.

In 1987, Bishop Grady approached him with the news of a new parish in Orlando. Starting with 100 families celebrating Mass in a VFW hall, Father Hoeffner would spend the next 12 years, building St. Isaac Jogues Parish from the ground up. In 1998, an opportunity arose for Father Hoeffner to move to a parish closer to his parents, who were in poor health. He became pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Palm Bay where he would continue to serve the parish and school community until his retirement in 2016. While there he established a trilingual parish council that equally represented the Anglo, Hispanic, and Filipino communities and began a chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to serve the needs of the poor.

At the celebration of his 50th anniversary to the priesthood in 2023, Father Hoeffner quipped, “I’ve spent 50 years doing absolutely incredible things and I am thankful to God for it.”

Of his tragic death, Bishop John Noonan released this statement: “We mourn with the St. Joseph Catholic community in Palm Bay over the tragic loss of these four lives as we pray for the repose of their souls and extend our prayers to their families. I share with you that Father Robert “Bob” Hoeffner and his sister, Sally, both were tragically murdered. Throughout his priesthood, Father Hoeffner served the people of God with compassion and humility. We will miss his grace-filled presence. We know he and his sister are received by the Lord with mercy and love. We also pray for the two police officers who were injured yesterday and for our public servants who safeguard our community and extend our gratitude to them during this difficult time.”

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized at press time.

Learn more about Father Hoeffner by clicking here.

Staff Report, February 01, 2024