Angel Garcia

The Kingdom Began in Puerto Rico

“A story of how a priest struggled to live the call of the Second Vatican Council, and . . . worked alongside laypeople for social justice in the Bronx.” ―National Catholic Reporter
South Bronx, 1958. Change was coming. It was a unique place and time in history where Father Neil Connolly found his true calling and spiritual awakening.
Set in the 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, he created a dynamic organization and chapel run by the people, and supported Unitas, a unique peer-driven mental health program for youth. Frustrated by the lack of institutional responses to his community’s challenges, he 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 pioneering lay leadership programs, the Pastoral Center and People for Change.
Angel Garcia ably blends the dynamic forces of Church and world that transformed Fr. Connolly as he grew into his vocation. This book presents a rich history of the South Bronx and calls for all urban policies to begin with the people. It also affirms the continuing relevance of Vatican II and Medellin for today’s Church and world, in the US and Latin America.
“Garcia captures the spirit of the era, and the spirit of the man.” —James Martin, S.J., author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage
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