An asthmatic, Felix suffered from ill health as a boy, his mother died young, and he grew up in Saint Augustine, Florida with his aunt. Seminarian in Havana, Cuba. Ordained on 21 December 1811. Priest in the diocese of San Cristóbal de la Habana, Cuba. Elected to the Spanish parliment in 1821. He introduced bills to abolish slavery and extend home rule to Spanish provinces in America – including Cuba. When King Ferdinand VII cracked down on political opposition in 1823, Varela fled to New York where he lived for the next 30 years, serving first as a parish priest and then vicar general of the new diocese. He worked to build churches, asylums and schools, set up charities, revitalize the spiritual life of his people, and integrate immigrants into their new land. Late in life he returned to Florida.