Tributes flooded in this week after the passing of beloved Bronx priest Father John Flynn, known for taking God’s word – and his own helping hand – to the streets.
Flynn died Monday, September 24 from a long debilitating illness at Riverdale’s Schervier Nursing Care Center at age 83.
He retired last year, after serving as pastor for St. Martin of Tours in Crotona for nearly 22 years.
During his years there, Fr. Flynn started the “Save-a-Generation” program funded by former Borough President Fernando Ferrer during the 90s. The program took young people off the streets and into an upstate boot camp for five months to learn discipline and earn their General Equivalency Diploma. Youngsters would later work at Bronx parks while preparing for college.
“He was a first class guy and a real priest’s priest,” recalled Ferrer. “Everything they say about him is true – and understated.”
There was no answer at the offices of St. Martin, though a recording asked parishioners to “continue praying for his soul.”
“He bought a lot to St. Martin’s,” said Community Board 6 District Manager Ivine Galarza, who worked with Fr. Flynn for several years. “He embraced all populations, not just the catholics.”
A towering figure with a hearty smile, Flynn began serving God in the Bronx during the late 1960s, settling in at Saint Raymond’s Church in Parkchester.
But delivering sermons from the pulpit wasn’t enough for him. Nor was delivering eulogies next to coffins of young people killed by violence.
After moving to St. Francis of Assisi Church in High Bridge in the 70s, Flynn joined local activists yearning for a better life during the borough’s descent into blight. He was a regular at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in West Farms, always asking its executive team could be done to help the needy, according to The New York Times.
Fr. Flynn would often find prospective candidates for “Save-a-Generation” by touring the streets of the South Bronx. Crucifix in hand, Flynn pleaded for young people to give up their guns for a crucifix. Sometimes managing to make a difference in their lives.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383