A great pleasure of doing In the Arena for the Diocese of Brooklyn as been getting to know Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the Vicar of Communications for the Diocese. New Evangelization Television, which produces, among other things, the only Catholic nightly news broadcast in the country, (Deacon Greg Kandra is its busy News Director) is one of Msgr. Harrington’s concerns.
Why do I bring him up? Well, it’s 2:24 AM, and I am oddly tickled that one Monsignor has tipped me off to this this interesting story by Paul Vitello, about another Monsignor, this time one whose cause for sainthood is being explored:
Monsignor Quinn, who died in 1940 at age 52, championed racial equality at a time when discrimination against blacks was ubiquitous in America, even inside the Catholic Church. In the Depression-era heyday of the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist radio broadcasts of the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin, Monsignor Quinn encountered sharp resistance from some fellow priests when he proposed ministering to Brooklyn’s growing population of blacks, many of them fleeing the Jim Crow South or migrating from the poor Caribbean countries.
In 1922, however, with diocesan support, Monsignor Quinn established the first church for black Catholics in Brooklyn, St. Peter Claver, which still exists and counts among graduates of its parochial school the singer and rights activist Lena Horne.
In 1928, he established the diocese’s first orphanage for black children, in a converted farmhouse in Wading River, on Long Island, which was then part of the diocese.
The orphanage was destroyed that summer in an arson fire, attributed at the time to the Ku Klux Klan, which was active in eastern Long Island and had openly opposed the building of the orphanage. After being rebuilt, the orphanage was set on fire a second time that same year.
But Monsignor Quinn rebuilt it a second time, this time in concrete and brick, according to a 1929 article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle with the headline: “New Fireproof Orphanage Will Defy Incendiary.”
The building, known as the Little Flower Orphanage in honor of his patron saint, St. Thérèse, remains the base of operations for the diocese’s Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York program, which provides a variety of services in Queens and Brooklyn and on Long Island.
Now, isn’t that a nice story with which to start the morning?
And then there is this, if you’d like a surprise.