by Peter J. Purpura Sr.
Ordained June 1, 1957, Msgr. William (Bill) Flood is now in his 63rd year as a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn. His vocation can be traced back to growing up in Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jackson Heights, followed by Bishop Loughlin H.S. in Fort Greene.
From the Sisters of St. Joseph at Blessed Sacrament, to the De La Salle Christian Brothers at Bishop Loughlin, to the Franciscan Brothers at St. Francis College, Bill Flood was well enforced in our Christian faith. Of course, the roots were planted at home, as he was to become a diocesan priest, while his brother, Matthew, entered the Jesuit community.
After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees at St. Francis, he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, L.I., and was ordained at St. James Pro-Cathedral, a parish that he would return to 15 years later as rector.
A young Father Flood was first assigned to St. Brigid’s Parish in Brooklyn and served with the legendary Msgr. Lawrence Bracken and Msgr. James Kelly, who is still in residence there 62 years later.
After five years of “a great experience,” Father Flood was assigned to the faculty at Cathedral Prep in 1962. His talent as an educator was already evident, and that was supplemented by his spirituality and warm personality. He continued on the faculty even after he became rector at St. James in 1971.
In 1976, he was assigned to another Brooklyn parish, St. Vincent de Paul, which by then included a mix of nationalities, including Polish and Spanish. His brother, Matthew, would travel across the river from Fordham Prep and offer a Mass in Spanish on Sundays.
From 1982 to 1986, Father Bill served as episcopal vicar while living at Parsons Manor, and also ministering at Mary Immaculate Hospital. In 1986, the now Msgr. Flood became pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish, where he remembers fondly serving with Fathers Dan Murphy and Eugene Coyle, whom he now lives with in his retirement at the Bishop Mugavero Residence for Retired Priests.
As pastor at Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach, his first assignment in Queens, 1995 to 2006, Msgr. Flood served with Fathers Vito Bonnano and Frank Labita, the latter another priest Msgr. Flood lives with today. Msgr. Flood has fond memories of that
Msgr. Flood was challenged once again with a very active parish and school. It was a grand finale to his 50 years of priesthood. From 2006 to 2017, he lived in retirement at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament in Bayside, where he enjoyed the hospitality and friendship of Father Bob Whelan, and also his childhood friend, Msgr. John Mahoney.
Since 2017, Msgr. Flood has resided at the Bishop Mugavero Residence at Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston.
Following his long journey since ordination, Msgr. Flood talks today not about his own priesthood, but rather about how he has been so impressed by the many religious and laypeople he met along the way.
As Jeanette Israel, the then secretary at O.L.H.C., says: “He is the most prayerful priest I have ever met”.
Mary Macchiarola, whom he recruited as director of religious education while at O.L.H.C., says: “Msgr. Flood is a priest who is totally committed to loving and serving God, as well as the children of God entrusted to him. He has lived a very simple and humble life. He visited and taught at the parish school several times each week and was dedicated to visiting the homebound, bringing comfort to the sick in hospitals, even if it meant a lengthy subway ride to Manhattan. Each Sunday he warmly greeted the people exiting every Mass. Most of his summer vacation time each year was spent celebrating Mass for the Sisters of St. Joseph at their summer retreat. I was awe of his daily hour alone with the Lord every afternoon from 4 to 5 p.m. when he was in church for prayer. He has great wit and enjoys a good laugh. His joy of life is contagious, and he is fun to be with.”
All that is evident to those who witness Msgr. Flood in retirement, as he still visits the chapel at I.C.C. every afternoon for his ‘Holy Hour,’ even while arriving a half-hour early for daily Mass.
It further says a lot about his preference for quiet time that he has no TV in his room in retirement.
Father Whelan remembers fondly the nearly 10 years they lived together at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
“Msgr. Flood was very generous in helping with Masses and confessions and made a point of getting to know all the parishioners. He never missed his daily Holy Hour, the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary. For that matter, he never missed our evening happy hour or a meal, or the New York Times either. Always a creature of habit! He was great company, being a gifted conversationalist, and very encouraging to me in the challenges of pastoring a parish.”
Today Msgr. Flood is very thankful for his new surroundings at the Bishop Mugavero Residence, where he interacts daily with the 20 or more priests who are able to make it down to the dining room. Continuing his years of helping young seminarians discern their vocation, he interacts with those who are studying at our seminary, housed in the same building at I.C.C., where retired priests and seminarians share many of their meals.
He often gets the conversation going while sharing a meal, pulling names and events out of his memory box, always with a good listening ear and often with a bit of wit in his responses.
Ad Multos Annos Msgr. Bill Flood.
Peter Purpura is a parishioner of Blessed Trinity, Breezy Point, and father of Father Peter Purpura, rector of St. James Cathedral Basilica, Brooklyn.