Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Bumping into Father Flynn once again

January 08, 2014|By Joe Puglia

I first came face to face with Father Flynn in 1957. I was in the fifth grade and I had to answer for the D grades Sister Mary Judith gave me in behavior. Father told me I would hang from the flagpole at Saint Frances of Rome if I were to continue such antics. For the rest of that fall, I was his indentured servant.

My servitude continued well after the fifth grade. I became his eyes and ears in the neighborhood, his muscle. I prosecuted his will in a tough Italian/Irish neighborhood in the Northeast Bronx. I was conscripted for life and couldn’t break the hold he had on me. Although Father Flynn has passed, I am linked to his memory.

He was the reincarnation of Saint Ignatius Loyola and Genghis Khan. Saint Ignatius was a soldier before he found the Jesuits; Father served with the China Marines prior to ordination. It was rumored he became a priest to atone for the mayhem he caused growing up in Hell’s Kitchen and what he did to the Japanese in the war. He was shrouded in mystery; that’s what made him an enigma.


You might recall that over the 10 years I’ve been writing “Thoughts from Dr. Joe” I have told numerous stories about Father Flynn. He choked me out, threatened me, bashed me against a wall, threw me out of the Boy Scouts prior to my Eagle Court, and wrote me incessantly when I was in Vietnam. He coined the phase “tough love” long before it became popular in today’s vernacular. Father is the central character in my book, “12 Stories from the Block.”

A few weeks ago Kaitzer and I were attending the Kiwanis Christmas party. I had the pleasure of speaking with Diane Restivo, the wife of my buddy, Al. Diane is a home girl from my old neighborhood in the Bronx. We reminisced and found that our lives had crossed paths when we were kids. Diane and Al were married in my church, Saint Frances of Rome. What a small world!

“Who performed the marriage?” I asked.

Diane didn’t recall but said that the priest had an angry disposition.

“It was Father Flynn,” I said.

They weren’t sure. Later that week I received an attachment of their marriage certificate. It was signed by Father John J. Flynn. I stared at his signature. I never knew his first name was John. To me, it was Father. I wondered what the “J.” stood for.

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