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Going Home to Jesus

My friend, John Grange, longtime pastor of St. Jerome's Parish in the South Bronx, died early yesterday morning of cancer.

He was a man of many parts: as comfortable living in a Mexican village as enjoying a concert at Lincoln Center or visitng the Frick Museum; as absorbed in reading Saul Alinsky as Bernard Lonergan.

John was steadfast in friendship, generous with his time and gifts, a sometimes gruff exterior thinly veiling a keen sensitivity and sensibility. In him head and heart joined in fruitful union – but heart always prevailed.

There is a fine tribute-obituary in this morning's New York Times.

The one misstep in the tribute is to identify him as "a disciple of the community organizer Saul Alinsky." John may have learned from Saul, but he was a disciple of Jesus. He told the countless visitors during his last days at Calvary Hospital: "Pray for me – I'm going home to Jesus!"


About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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It feels like over the past couple of years the Bronx has lost a lot of the clergy and religious who served our communities with great devotion through very difficult times.

Where Lazarus is poor no longer, may he find eternal rest.



"Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere"--And with Lazarus who once was poor--I love the understatement.

And, yes, God bless and reward John Grange, a great priest.

"In 1992, at a meeting with Cardinal John O’Connor to protest the scheduled closing of St. Jerome’s parish school, Father Grange brashly declared: “St. Jerome, pray for us. And pray for Cardinal O’Connor.”

"Father Grange had earlier challenged Cardinal Edward M. Egan to save St. Jerome’s dilapidated church. In 2001, he packed the audience at a meeting of several Bronx churches with his Mexican parishioners. Cardinal Egan called Father Grange’s domination of the meeting “an outrage,” but later helped secure the money to give the church, built in 1898, a sparkling renovation."

He stood toe to toe with two monarchs. A pastor who stood up for his people and did not kow tow to the criteria of money. 

" One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as 'that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.' If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide." Saul Alinsky


  • "A People's Organization is dedicated to an eternal war. It is a war against poverty, misery, delinquency, disease, injustice, hopelessness, despair, and unhappiness...."ibid

Two months before he died Alinsky gave this interview to Playboy:


ALINSKY: ... if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.


ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I've been with the have-nots. Over here, if you're a have-not, you're short of dough. If you're a have-not in hell, you're short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I'll start organizing the have-nots over there.

PLAYBOY: Why them?

ALINSKY: They're my kind of people.


Many clergy spend a lot of time with the "haves." John Grange and Saul Alinsky might be together now.

In 1969 Alinsky was awarded the Pacem in Terris award. He was in very good company.

Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into your Master's joy. The New York archdiocese presbyterate has a proud history.

My father attended St Jerome parish school in 1900, in a ghetto of working class Irish; I am thankful for the very little education that he had and received there [ just three years] It gave him a life long sense of justice .. He often told of the expression 'O'Brien made all four corners last night'  [on Alexander Ave.] This meant O'Brien drank too much at the corner bar, had a fight and was patched up at the drugstore on the east corner,then placed in a cell across the street at the police station, and let out a 7AM to attend Mass at St Jeromes on the fourth corner. .

Ed Gleason

Your father just made my day.  What a guy!

Good article and a great man, it seems.


In his final days, his brother Joseph said, more than 1,000 parishioners, mostly Mexican, streamed through his hospital room, forcing the nurses to limit visits to no more than five minutes at a time.

I wish we heard about people to admire before their death.

I hope I will meet him one day after I die. 

Reminded of the beauty of the traditional phrasing by Fr. Komonchak's message, I thought of one of my favorite version – Fauré ’s.  So I turned to the Internet to find a version, and immediately located one on YouTube.  It began, as these things do, with a paid advertisement – well, ok, I guess I must because I am not at home and don’t have access to my CDs.

The ad – a full 60 seconds! - is for something called “Assassin’s Creed”, a video game  which apparently involves endless and essentially mindless violence associated with pirates, sharks, gunfire and who knows what else.

Talk about cognitive dissonance…  Bloody depressing, really.   But perhaps Fr. Grange would have shrugged it off, urging me to focus on action, not be so easily discouraged.

Mark L.

Pope Francis wants priests who had a feel for the streets. St Jerome had em in aces.for a long long time.. .

And bless the New York Times for reporting the life of this holy man.  (I wonder if it's starting to see that there is interesting stuff besides politics, science, entertainment, cars, and food  worth reporting about.  Someday it might even have a Religion section.)

I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Grange on several occasions.  He was the real deal.  Certainly a pastor who took on the smell of the sheep.  I huge loss to the Church here in the Bronx,

The NYTs knew and wrote about the life of Fr. John Grange largely because of one David Gonzalez, who grew up in the Bronx.

David has the photo credit for the head shot photo embedded in the article.  Kudos to the Times for hiring David.

The Carmelite priest, Patrick McGuigan, who was pastor here in Bloomingburg and in other places here-abouts for many years, a hippie in appearance, looking like a relic of the '60s--jeans, Beatles haircut, combat boots--had a massive heart attack after early Sunday morning Mass two weeks ago and never recovered. Two thousand people came for his wake in the church, some from his very first assignment in St. Simon Stock in the Bronx. The church was filled to serious overflowing for his funeral, at which the homilist brought down the house by beginning his remarks, "You will want to know: he died with his boots on."

It was very moving to see a priest so loved and honored by his people's thanksgiving and grief.

I remember Sarah Palin’s dismissal of community organizers at the 2008 Republican convention:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

My first thought was: "What gall." I know community organizers and most are nuns and priests who minister in the poorest parishes here in Philadelphia.

Thank God for their commitment.

I have always loved the phrase "going home to. Jesus."

I love it too.

Last evening I lectured at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, in their "Year of Faith" lecture series. My topic was "The Christ-centered Vision of Vatican Two." I dedicated the presentation to the memory of John Grange.

In the prepared text I had cited some verses of the poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire:"

for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men's faces.
I only discovered later that these lines are quoted on John's Memorial Card.


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