The Kingdom Began in Puerto Rico: Neil Connolly's Priesthood in the South Bronx

The Kingdom Began in Puerto Rico: Neil Connolly's Priesthood in the South Bronx

by Angel Garcia


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How the South Bronx and Puerto Rican migration defined Fr. Neil Connolly’s priesthood as he learned to both serve and be part of his community

South Bronx, 1958. Change was coming. Guidance was sorely needed to bridge the old and the new, for enunciating and implementing a vision. It was a unique place and time in history where Father Neil Connolly found his true calling and spiritual awakening. The Kingdom Began in Puerto Rico captures the spirit of the era and the spirit of this great man.

Set in historical context of a changing world and a changing Catholic Church, The Kingdom Began in Puerto Rico follows Fr. Neil Connolly’s path through the South Bronx, which began with a special Church program to address the postwar great Puerto Rican migration. After an immersion summer in Puerto Rico, Fr. Neil served the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the Bronx from the 1960s to the 1980s as they struggled for a decent life. Through the teachings of Vatican II, Connolly assumed responsibility for creating a new Church and world. In the war against drugs, poverty, and crime, Connolly created a dynamic organization and chapel run by the people and supported Unitas, a nationally unique peer-driven mental health program for youth. Frustrated by the lack of institutional responses to his community’s challenges, Connolly challenged government abandonment and spoke out against ill-conceived public plans. Ultimately, he realized that his priestly mission was in developing new leaders among people, in the Church and the world, and supporting two nationally unique lay leadership programs, the Pastoral Center and People for Change.

Discovering the real mission of priesthood, urban ministry, and the Catholic Church in the United States, author Angel Garcia ably blends the dynamic forces of Church and world that transformed Fr. Connolly as he grew into his vocation. The book presents a rich history of the South Bronx and calls for all urban policies to begin with the people, not for the people. It also affirms the continuing relevance of Vatican II and Medellin for today’s Church and world, in the United States and Latin America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823289264
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 12/15/2020
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 248,607
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Angel Garcia was a community organizer and Executive Director of South Bronx People for Change, a Church-based direct action and membership organization cofounded by Fr. Connolly. Born in Puerto Rico, and a graduate of Regis High School, Princeton University, and Pace University, Garcia is a long-term resident of the South Bronx and has been active on social justice issues and worker cooperatives.

Table of Contents

Foreword | ix

Introduction | 1

1. Puerto Rico | 9

2. The New Parish | 27

3. A Changed Church, a Changed Role | 57

4. Summer in the City | 80

5. World Struggles, Parish Struggles | 105

6. Organizing Priests | 140

7. Social Action, Political Power | 165

8. South Bronx—Commitment and Abandonment | 189

9. New Ministers | 213

10. People for Change | 239

11. Another World, a Larger Mission | 264

12. New Leadership | 293

Acknowledgments | 313

Notes | 319

Index | 347

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