Father George Barry Ford (1885-1978)

By MSGR. THOMAS J. SHELLEY

SEVENTH IN A Sequence

Dr. Henry van Dusen, president of Union Theological Seminary, a single of America’s premier Protestant seminaries, stated on just one occasion in the late 1940s that, if the Catholic Church experienced a more persuasive representative than Father George Barry Ford, he had nevertheless to meet that human being.

         Ordained in 1918, Ford turned the chaplain to the Newman Club and advisor to Catholic students at Columbia University in 1929 while assigned to St. Aloysius Church on West 132nd Road in Harlem. When the pastorate of Corpus Christi Church on West 121st Road in Morningside Heights fell vacant in 1935, Ford was appointed pastor. Whilst the country was in the depths of the Great Melancholy, Ford promptly questioned Cardinal Patrick Hayes for permission to create a new church and faculty on the current web page.

      He spelled out to the cardinal his motives for what might have appeared to be a foolhardy ask for. “This is not just a different parish,” he stated, “but a strategically positioned just one where the most effective that the Church can do ought to be performed.” He described that there have been eight world-popular institutions positioned inside the boundaries of the parish:, like Columbia University, Barnard School, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, Instructors College or university, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. Luke’s Hospital and Riverside Church.

      The new Corpus Christi Church was finished within 18 months and was dedicated by Cardinal Hayes in Oct 1936. It was a mixture church-and-college, but as opposed to so quite a few utilitarian buildings of that type erected in the Archdiocese of New York all through the 1920s and 1930s, Corpus Christi Church genuinely appeared and felt like a church equally from the outdoors and from within, with splendid stained-glass windows and tasteful interior decorations.

      The optimum pastoral priority for Father Ford was the solemn celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy in all its splendor. For that rationale, he encouraged the enhancement of a choir, which recognized a standing for its professionalism and intensive repertoire of sacred songs that endures to this working day and attracts Catholics from across the city.

      During Ford’s preliminary several years at Corpus Christi, Mass was nonetheless celebrated in Latin. Ford tried to defeat the language barrier and aid the energetic participation of the laity in the Mass in a distinctive way. He posted a priest in the pulpit that offered a simultaneous translation into English of the terms of the celebrant at the altar (besides for the Eucharistic Prayer). The devoted liked it, but alarmed diocesan authorities outlawed the follow for arcane good reasons that they took with them to the grave.

Ford manufactured other simple pastoral improvements at Corpus Christi. He was one particular of the to start with pastors in the archdiocese to remove cumbersome pulpit announcements by publishing a weekly bulletin. He also inaugurated a month-to-month publication, the Corpus Christi Chronicle, which manufactured readily available to his parishioners shorter essays by some of the greatest modern American and European Catholic writers.

A lot of Catholic educators regarded Teachers University (situated a stone’s toss from Corpus Christi Church) with fear and loathing since they regarded as it to be the citadel of the “progressive education” they related with John Dewey. Father Ford adopted a extra nuanced placement.

When he seen girls spiritual in complete pre-Vatican II religious behavior learning for graduate levels at Lecturers University, he inquired about the id of a religious congregation of women of all ages that had the temerity to deliver their young sisters to Academics College or university. When he uncovered they ended up Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis., he immediately acquired their providers for his personal university, the place they soon set new criteria of tutorial excellence in the elementary colleges of the Archdiocese of New York.

Father Leo J. O’Donovan, the distinguished Jesuit theologian and president emeritus of Georgetown College, who grew up in Corpus Christi parish in the 1940s, was a witness to the transformation of the parish under Father Ford. He explained Ford “as one particular of the heroes of my life” and stated that “it would just take an additional lifetime for me to convey even fairly adequately my gratitude to Corpus Christi.”

As for the Sinsinawa Dominicans in Corpus Christi College, Father O’Donovan reported that they “changed my lifetime permanently…In effect they took the greatest of John Dewey and blessed us little ones with it.”

Father Ford experienced additional than just one dust-up with diocesan officers, but he managed to incorporate regard for ecclesiastical authority with resistance to bullies. He assured one particular vicar basic that he had “instant respect for the historic and vital place of work you hold,” but he extra, “when it turns into a law enforcement station where suspects report, it no for a longer period enjoys esteem.”

In an post on Father Ford that John Cogley posted in Commonweal in 1958, he claimed, “Of system, Father Ford has not generally escaped criticism. A male of his temper would not want to a guy of his accomplishment could not hope to. He has often been just a phase in advance of the crowd—a minimal additional tolerant, a tiny much more daring, a tiny less offered to cant. It is even attainable that from time to time he moved too fast—a pleased ample fault in a modern society of folks who move as well gradually.”