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“It’s a Blessing”: CNR Chaplain Celebrates 50 Years of Priesthood

January 31, 2017
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Fr. Joseph Flynn, OFM Cap.

It has been an eventful five decades since Father Joseph Flynn, OFM Cap., chaplain for The College of New Rochelle, entered the priesthood on November 12, 1966. He traces his interest in religious life all the way back to 1953, when he was in eighth grade. On a visit to Glenclyffe, a seminary high school affiliated with the Capuchin Franciscan order in Garrison, New York, he spotted some friends from his neighborhood of Woodside, New York, a link between worlds that convinced him to enroll. From that time until the present day, “Father Joe,” as he is affectionately known, has devoted his life to God and the service of others. In November 2016, he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination as a Capuchin Franciscan priest.

He remembers his time of preparation for the priesthood, which included 12 years of cloistered life, with great fondness. “The monastic formation process created a connectedness amongst everyone,” he recalled. “I was an only child and it gave me the experience of having brothers. We played sports every day and put on plays like ‘HMS Pinafore’ and ‘Trial by Jury.’ Learning to express yourself on stage was helpful preparation for preaching.” He caught the Capuchin Franciscan spirit “by osmosis. There was a humanizing spirit that I found very attractive. We learned to reach out to people—we weren’t being created as a person ‘above’ anyone else.”

In the years following his ordination in 1966, he has truly lived the life of a “contemplative in action,” as Capuchin Franciscans are called to do. His impact has been felt in parishes and schools around New York. He taught high school religion classes at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers; served as a pastoral counselor at St. Michael’s in Brooklyn; worked with candidates for the clergy in Garrison; directed the field education program at Maryknoll School of Theology in Ossining; and held the role of chaplain in residence and director of campus ministry at Manhattanville College in Purchase. Along the way, he formed lasting friendships with students and parishioners. “I’ve performed baptisms and marriages over several generations,” he said. “Being involved in the ministry of their lives has been a tremendous affirmation.”

In 2002, Father Joe joined CNR as chaplain, where his duties include offering Mass at Holy Family Chapel; providing students, faculty, and staff with counseling; and hearing confessions. He offers support to members of the CNR Community in times of sickness and grief and presides over joyful occasions like alumnae/i weddings and the baptism of their children. One of the most fulfilling aspects of his work is overseeing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). “The spiritual angle of bringing adults into the Church been a wonderful blessing,” he said.

He appreciates his ministry with young people for “the joy, the energy they bring. In most cases they take you as another human being, rather than place expectations that, for example, a priest isn’t supposed to be laughing.” He also sees his work in the CNR community as an opportunity to build a connection between the clergy and those who may have had little interaction with the Church. “When students leave here and go to other places,” he said, “there’s a feeling of comfort with the clergy that they can continue. People say to me, ‘There’s nothing like a Capuchin priest. There are no walls; you can trust them.’”

Father Joe celebrated a Jubilee Mass in Holy Family Chapel on December 18, 2016. “It was perfect,” he said. “We had a nice reception and it gave me the opportunity to thank everyone at CNR for the support they’ve offered for more than 14 years.”  

“Father Joe has a calming presence and inspires individual reflection on the development of the person God is calling each of us to become,” said Elaine White, Vice President of Student Services. “He is both energized by his ministry to college-aged students and energizes them to persist in pursuit of their goals. The world needs more Father Joes!”