Fast forward to 1956: Andrew Connolly is ordained a Roman Catholic priest. His older brother Thomas had already been a priest for several years. Tom was on a path that would take him to an unexpected future in the Philippines—for there, after some years as a missionary, he fell in love, left the priesthood, got married and had children! (Both of whom are still living in California, we are told.)
Father Andy’s wish was to serve the poor, and preferably, the Spanish-speaking community. He found he was naturally drawn to their culture and their people. In those days, in the northeastern United States, “Hispanic” --more often than not--referred to Puerto Ricans.
Yet ironically, his first assignment after ordination had little to do with the poor! He was dispatched to St. Agnes Church in Rockville Centre, in the heart of the Brooklyn diocese--and literally one of the wealthiest in the entire nation.
Fr. Andy accepted this twist of fate, but, interestingly, he discovered that in the St. Agnes Parish, there were actually many Puerto Ricans living, working, raising families and worshipping. But they were not so "visible" at first glance.
These often were people who worked in the households, restaurants and golf clubs of wealthy white Americans. Their homes were small apartments above retail stores in the villages surrounding St. Agnes. So, after a time, Fr. Connolly got to know many of these folks, visited them, spoke Spanish with them, and developed in a sense, a small “parish-within-a-parish” composed primarily of Puerto Rican families.
This chapter came to a close in 1963, when Rockville Centre / St. Agnes itself became the seat of the new diocese serving Long Island exclusively. Father Andy attended Catholic University in Washington D.C. for a few years. And when he returned to Long Island in 1966, it was to take on a unique new leadership role as first and founding Principal of the brand new high school in Hicksville, Holy Trinity.
Looking back, Fr. Andy says he had enriching experiences and appreciated his short stint as Holy Trinity’s Principal—but he knew, fairly early on, that this was not a good match for a man of his temperament. And then, from the OLMM point of view, this is when the “big turning point” came into play.
Father Andrew P. Connolly
Continued from STAFF page....
A slide from the 80th Anniversary presentation, which covers the entire history of our Church and Parish.
(See link on this site's HOME page.)
His next opportunity was here in Wyandanch—and he gladly came, to serve as assistant to the Pastor in 1968. After a few years, he moved up to Parish Administrator, taking over for Fr. Hull when he retired.
In 1972, Fr. Andy became the new Pastor at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. He relished the opportunity, and went on to embrace his role for a dozen very full and productive years as our Pastor.
Many things that we are proud of and have made our parish unique can be traced back to the devoted leadership of Fr. Andy Connolly and those he inspired during these years: the introduction of regular Spanish masses at OLMM (with the great help of Father Bill Brisotti) the activism and emphasis on improving housing quality in Wyandanch; the establishment of the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center as an organization that directly addressed the needs of local people living in poverty and privation.
After this historic stretch, it was time for Fr. Connolly to move on once again—this time as a missionary, like his older brother Tom. Fr. Andy knew that the people in El Salvador were suffering greatly after a prolonged civil war. And that is where he wanted to go.
But there was another fate in store for him—in the village of El Cercado, in the Dominican Republic. Father Maloney was in desperate need of help, and prayed for a dedicated priest who could keep the mission down there open. Without that special person, the mission would be closed, most likely. Suddenly, Maloney's prayers were answered, and it was Father Andy to the rescue!
Fr. Connolly served in that Dominican parish for 17 years! A parish of 35,000 people, mostly poor folks living hardscrabble lives in an area the size of Nassau County, and comprised of about 100 different communities.
It was a life changing experience, both for the residents of El Cercado, and for Fr. Andrew P. Connolly.
[to be continued......after Fr. Connolly's birthday 7/30]