One of the borough’s legendary priests was honored with a street co-named in his memory.
Parishioners and family of Fr. John Flynn, the pastor of St. Martin of Tours for more than two decades and one of the borough’s most revered ‘street priests’, unveiled the sign outside of the parish on Friday, May 27.
The sign, on East 182nd Street at Grote Street, now officially proclaims the corner as ‘Fr. John Flynn Way.’
During the ceremony, Councilman Ritchie Torres recalled that Flynn, who passed away in 2012, started an initiative in the 1990s designed for high school dropouts called Save A Generation that got the youth to work in parks, get a GED and prepare for college.
“He was a beloved pastor…known as the people’s priest,” said Torres, who arranged for the street co-naming in the City Council. “He was often referred to as the last of the ‘street priests’, who loved being with the people and devoted himself to more than just the Sunday sermon.”
Torres said that Flynn was well known for his walks around the community, and even encouraged young people to trade a gun for a crucifix, a gesture that got the priest two profiles in the New York Times.
The councilman said at the Flynn ceremony that as the youngest elected official in the city, and as a young person, he believes it is important to remember the older generation of community leaders.
Jose Padilla Jr., a longtime St. Martin of Tours parishioner and a friend, helped coordinate the effort to get the street named in honor of Fr. Flynn.
“(He) came out and spoke with the residents,” said Padilla, “He spoke to a lot of the immigrants…he was not only a inspirational religious leader, but he was also a community leader as a priest.”
The very fact that he was out and about in the community also made him different than many priests, said Padilla, adding that he also visited the his flock in nursing homes and hospitals, said Padilla.
Flynn was ordained in Yonkers in 1955 and served at several borough parishes throughout the years until his passing at the age of 83, including St. Raymond’s from 1958 to 1972, and St. John Chrysostom and St. Francis of Assisi in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mary Ellen Loveless, Fr. Flynn’s sister, called her brother a true “priest of the people.”
“He saved people, he ready did,” said Loveless. “He was someone who walked the streets at night to see if he could help people; he was not someone who just sat in his room.”
Loveless said that her brother was a giver, not a taker, and that it was her honor to have Flynn as her sibling.
Heidi Hynes, executive director of the Mary Mitchell Center, recalled in her remarks that Flynn was a role-model to her and many others.
A large contingent from St. Martin of Tours parish was on hand when the sign was revealed on May 27.