The Bishop of Brooklyn accepted last week the findings of a nine-year diocesan investigation into the life of Monsignor Bernard John Quinn, known for fighting bigotry and serving the African American population, as part of his cause for canonization.
The information will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio received the findings at a Vespers service at the Immaculate Conception Center in Queens.
Msgr. Quinn “combatted racism and is an inspiration to the priests of this diocese,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “He is a hero who turned things around and gave his life for his people, died an early death, and was a great man.”
Quinn was born in Newark in 1888, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1912.
In 1922, he established St. Peter Claver parish, Brooklyn's first church for African American Catholics
Six years later, he established Little Flower Orphanage for African American orphanage in Wading River on Long Island. The building was twice set on fire.
Quinn's great-niece, Mary Clare Quinn, said: “The family was all very proud of the work he was doing at Little Flower, and we all contributed during the winters and summers, going out there to help. They used to burn crosses at our house in Mineola, even after he was gone, but my family stared fear down.”
Msgr. Paul Jervis, postulator for Quinn's cause, said the priest “could not separate his sacramental ministry from the social and political realities that denied to people on account of their race, or immigrant status, the opportunities to enjoy the fullness of life as the Lord willed for all humanity.”
“St. Peter Claver Catholic Church became a meeting ground where white Catholics encountered blacks and discovered that they all had a common humanity with the same human problems, and were all in need of the intercession of St. Therese and the pastoral intercession of Monsignor Quinn,” he said.
Quinn died in 1940 at the age of 52.
The diocesan phase of his cause for canonization was opened in June 2010. At that time, Bishop DiMarzio said that Quinn's ministry “did not end upon his death but has continued to grow and take root in the hearts and souls of the faithful and clergy of this church in New York, which has continually ministered to the poor and oppressed.”