“Roaring about Jesus and justice”: Remembering Fr. Vincent Termine, priest who battled racism

A noteworthy obit about a noteworthy Brooklyn priest, from The New York Times: 

The Rev. Vincent J. Termine, a Roman Catholic priest who helped revive a dying parish in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1960s and ’70s, then angered members of his predominantly white flock when he let black youths from another neighborhood participate in organized basketball at the church, died on Dec. 26 in Johns Island, S.C., where he had lived since 2009. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his brother, John.

Father Termine’s parish, Most Precious Blood, was in serious disrepair and its elementary school had just lost its teaching order of nuns when he was transferred there in 1967. Over the next decade he led a drive to raise more than a million dollars to rebuild the church. He also recruited a new teaching order of nuns for the school.

The racial tensions flared in the midst of those efforts, in the mid-1970s, after Gerard Papa, a community-minded Brooklyn lawyer, organized a basketball league, known as the Flames, to bring together Italian-American boys from the suburban-style homes of south Brooklyn and blacks and Hispanics from the projects.

Father Termine (pronounced TER-mine) agreed to let them use his church as their home base so that they would qualify to compete in Catholic Youth Organization tournaments. (Lacking a basketball court, the church offered its bingo hall for use as one.)

The decision angered many parishioners. At the Flames’ first practice session, bat-wielding white toughs menaced the black players whom Father Termine had welcomed to his church, on Bay 47th Street.

By his account, Father Termine resolved the dispute by going to a Brooklyn social club, where he knew he could find the father of one of the bat-wielding toughs — “a local, ah, man of respect,” as he described him to Robert Lipsyte, then a columnist for The New York Times, in 1994.

“He stormed into the back room,” Mr. Lipsyte wrote, relating Father Termine’s account. “Cards and chips flew as he roared — (‘I can be dramatic when necessary’) — about Jesus and justice.”

Father Termine said the neighborhood man gave him his personal pledge of safe-conduct for the Flames. There were no further incidents.

Read more. 

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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