By Sister Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M.
Patrick Morgan cheerfully travels from the Belle Harbor home he shares with his wife, Mary, to improve the lives of other parents’ children enrolled in the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center.
His destination is a modest two story building, located behind protective walls in the beautiful garden of the Convent of Mercy, in the Clinton Hill/Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The Center offers neighborhood children of new immigrants protection from the streets and academic and cultural enrichment programs.
Morgan promotes its mission as it works to help families overcome negative influences that impact their well-being and self-sufficiency. And now he is involved in promoting and preparing for the 20th anniversary celebration which will be marked by a Mass in the convent chapel on June 7.
Asked what drew him to this place, he replies, “My wife Mary has been catering events for Sister Kay Crumlish and Mercy Home for years. My children were grown and I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and use my God-given talents. I always wanted to teach English to Spanish-speaking immigrants. Mary had a conversation with Sister Kay, who put me in touch with Sister Kathleen Quinn, then the Executive Director. The next thing I knew, I was teaching English twice a week at the center!”
Morgan’s experience in the corporate world affects his perception of the center.
“I had worked for AT&T for 36 years,” he said. “After my exposure to this industry-leading enterprise as well as the Fortune 500 companies I had the pleasure of servicing, I have never met a nicer group of people than those associated with the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center. Everyone clearly understands the Center’s Mission Statement and our mutual goal is how to best serve the families that pass through its doors. There are no egos, just a focus on the mission. That is rare for any organization in this day and age.”
While Morgan admits that teachers rarely see long-term results, he has enjoyed the thanks of adults who have benefitted from their improved English-speaking skills. He describes one woman who suffered an attempted assault in the lobby of her building. She was able to use her language proficiency to describe the assailant to the police. He says that one event made all his hours of teaching ESL worthwhile. He is grateful to be able to share his foreign language and organizational skills and he adds that he gains satisfaction from being able to put his God-given talent to the service of the community.
Morgan’s childhood was typical of Brooklyn’s Irish Catholic community. As the oldest of five children, he attended Mass every Sunday. His mother and grandmother instilled in the children a devotion to the Blessed Mother. Being a Catholic had special meaning in the Morgan household.
His father, John (also known as Jack), had immigrated to the United States in 1952 from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The majority of Jack’s siblings and their families remained in Belfast and suffered through the “Troubles” as it is known.
He and his wife Mary have been happily married for almost 37 years. They have two children, Theresa and Jerry, as well as three beautiful granddaughters. Grandchild number four is due at the end of May.
Morgan’s concerns go beyond his personal and local needs.
“The Latino population in this country (which is now the largest minority and steadily growing) is severely underserved,” he explained. “Besides not having enough Spanish-speaking priests or deacons, new immigrants are finding new religions (i.e. Evangelical storefronts) that serve their spiritual and corporal needs in their new country. Again, this is a human resource issue and the affected dioceses should think ‘out of the box’ to serve this important community.”
For Morgan, a favorite way of relaxing is to play or listen to music. He not only enjoys playing rock and roll, the music of his youth, but is now playing more gigs than ever before. He notes, “God works in mysterious ways.”
One of the things that makes him happiest is watching his three granddaughters play. Among his unfulfilled dreams are journeys to the Marian shrines in Lourdes and Medjugorje.
For additional information on the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center, visit dbmcenter.org.