Brooklyn Priest on Road to Sainthood Was a ‘Champion of Rights’

Tags: Currents, Bishop James Massa, Black Catholics, Monsignor Bernard J. Quinn, Racial Violence, Racism, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saints

By Tim Harfmann

Monsignor Bernard Quinn was a champion for Black Catholics and faced down the KKK during the early twentieth century.

Now, the Brooklyn priest is getting attention from the Vatican and could become a saint.

“There’s a saying that it happens in God’s time. If it’s meant to be, he will be canonized,” said Monsignor Paul Jervis, who dedicated years to making sure Monsignor Quinn is properly recognized.

He said the Brooklyn Diocese will present Quinn’s case to the Vatican in November, including claims of miraculous intercessions. Then, the Holy See will investigate.

At Brooklyn’s St. Francis of Assisi – St. Blaise parish on October 27, Auxiliary Bishop James Massa presided in Latin because Monsignor Quinn celebrated Mass in Latin throughout his priesthood.

“He is just an incredible example of priestly zeal, love for the Mass and love for the poor among us,” said Bishop Massa.

Msgr. Quinn founded St. Peter Claver Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant. It was the first parish for Black Catholics in the Brooklyn Diocese.

He also founded a school, community center and a medical clinic.

On Long Island, he founded an orphanage, which the KKK burned down twice. Msgr. Quinn built it a third time to serve black children.

“It’s very important for people to understand that he was a white priest, but he was regarded as a champion of their rights,” said Msgr. Jervis.

Msgr. Quinn was also known for uniting black and white people within in the Church, despite racial tension.

One way he did that was a novena dedicated to Saint Therese the Little Flower. Over 2,000,000 Catholics flocked to St. Peter Claver to pray for her intercession.

“He loved them to the extent of being willing to shed the last drop of his life, his blood, for them,” said Msgr. Jervis.

“He’s meant so much in my life, and it would be great to have somebody from Brooklyn,” said Richard Harris, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi – St. Blaise. Monsignor Quinn helped in his father’s conversion to Catholicism.

Msgr. Quinn died in 1940 at the age of 52.

Right now, he’s a Servant of God — a major step to sainthood.

The next stage, Venerable, means his heroic virtue is recognized by the pope.

Monsignor Jervis said there’s no timetable as to when the Vatican will make its decision.