From the Times this morning comes this touching profile of a priest who did so much — and still has more to do:
On a recent overcast morning, the Rev. John C. Flynn, an 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest with bright blue eyes and thick white hair, stepped out of his Bronx rectory and into the streets.
Father Flynn shuffled past walls covered in graffiti and fenced-off lots lying fallow, his arms folded at his chest. Like a beat cop, he has walked the neighborhood daily for 21 years, his uniform a thin black shirt, tattered black pants and a priest’s collar, his belt doubled back to fit his narrow frame.
He peeked inside an open doorway, a Puerto Rican flag hanging on the vestibule wall, to ask after a man who was wearing a tank top and sitting in an armchair. “I’m O.K.,” the man called back.
Father Flynn paused, leaning against the doorframe. “Are you sure?” he asked. And with that, the man released a torrent of grief: his struggles coping with the death of his uncle, his problems with his family. Father Flynn listened quietly, comforting him with words about “El Señor” and Heaven above, as tears pooled in the man’s eyes.
It was a small moment, a single interaction with a neighbor he has known for years. But it revealed much of what has made Father Flynn a revered figure in the neighborhood.
Since 1989, he has made the daily rounds of the blocks surrounding St. Martin of Tours Church in Crotona, ministering to drug dealers, drug addicts and generations of working-class families. But his unlikely stewardship will soon end. Father Flynn, who is retiring at the end of the month, said his last Mass on Sunday, both in English and in Spanish. He plans to move to a residence for retired priests in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
“He thought it was his business how people were living, and he wanted them to live better,” said Heidi Hynes, a community advocate who has known Father Flynn for years. “He is an inspiration. He is what I hope I will be, what I wish I could be more of.”
What priest wouldn’t want to be remembered that way? Read on for the rest.