Brooklyn Ministries

By Mike Benigno

The Jesuits are no strangers to Brooklyn.

As the home to hundreds of students who traverse the city each day to attend high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx, and the location of the former Brooklyn Prep (which closed in 1972) and of St. Ignatius Parish, Brooklyn is New York’s most populous borough.

Today’s Brooklyn is as diverse as the surrounding city, but as Manhattanites continue to flee across the East River to escape enormous housing costs, Brooklyn families are confronting increasing inequality.

Since 2003, Brooklyn Jesuit Prep has been the mantle of the Ignatian presence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. But this spring, the impressive middle school was joined by another official apostolate of the USA Northeast Province— the Carroll Street Jesuit Community.

The Jesuits of Brooklyn’s Carroll Street Jesuit Community.
Housed in a former church rectory that was renovated earlier this year, eight Jesuits from a wide variety of backgrounds have teamed with local organizations to help tackle important community needs.

“The process was done in a distinctly Ignatian way,” said Fr. Ed Quinnan, SJ. At a meeting held more than a year ago, Fr. Quinnan hosted representatives from numerous community organizations in the soon-to-be renovated living space and listed ways that they envisioned Jesuits could assist in their work.

“When the brainstorming session was over, each examined the list and was asked to put aside their own needs, keeping in mind the greater good. That afternoon, the Ignatian discernment that we often talk about happened right before our eyes, with many looking past their own interests to focus on the areas where Jesuits are uniquely suited to have the greatest impact.”

Br. Joseph Hoover, SJ, teaches acting class to Brooklyn Jesuit Prep students.

Throughout the first ten months of their return to Brooklyn, Jesuits of the Carroll Street community have:

  • Taught and served as chaplains, retreat facilitators, tutors, and board chair at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep.
  • Led faculty, staff and administrators of Cristo Rey High School in Brooklyn in a series of workshops on adult Ignatian spiritual formation.
  • Set the groundwork to establish a campus ministry program at Medgar Evers College.
  • Tutored students from Reconnect Brooklyn, a program in Bedford-Stuyvesant that empowers disconnected young men to become neighborhood entrepreneurs and begin college-level coursework. Established Sundays@Six, a weekly evening liturgy at Our Lady of Refuge Parish focused on helping young adults grow in Ignatian spirituality, community, and a commitment to justice and social outreach.
  • Begun to reach out to residents in a recently opened temporary shelter for homeless families in Crown Heights.

Brooklyn Jesuit Prep studentsattending Mass at nearby St.Teresa of Avila Church.

The Carroll Street Jesuit Community comprises Fr. Bill Cain, a writer for theater and film; Fr. Ken Gavin, SJ, superior of the community and former assistant international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome; Br. Joe Hoover, SJ, who acts and serves as poetry editor for America magazine; Fr. Jerry Huyett, SJ, a longtime teacher in the CUNY system; Fr. Ed Quinnan, SJ, assistant for pastoral ministries for the East Coast; Fr. Ralph Rivera, SJ, chaplain and tutor at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep; Br. Ed Sheehy, SJ, who has toured the world teaching and sharing his love of puppetry; and Fr. Anthony SooHoo, SJ, a graduate student at NYU who has worked with members of the CharisNYC retreat team.

“The welcome we have received here in Brooklyn during our first ten months has been truly heart-warming,” Fr. Gavin commented. “Our major focuses on education and care for young adults have enabled us to collaborate humbly and effectively with already-existing ministries in schools, parishes, and social centers here in central Brooklyn. The partnerships in ministry that we have begun in the Diocese of Brooklyn confirm our common Jesuit vocation to reach out to those in greatest need. We Jesuits of Brooklyn are truly grateful.”

Members of local organizations gathered to discern the ways that Jesuits could serve the Crown Heights community.

Mike Benigno is director of communications for the USA Northeast Province.

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