Rev. Joseph Franco of Sacred Heart is charged with leading Bronx parishes to new heights as regional chair

The Rev. Joseph Franco had just finished celebrating his first Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church about eight years ago when two police officers approached him. A man being chased had plunged to his death from the top of a building behind the Highbridge church, and family members and a crowd had gathered around the body. “The officers said, ‘Is there any way you could just be there? The family is going to want some comfort,’” Franco, 36, recalled. “The most you can do is minister by your presence.” The help of the young priest, who was made pastor in 2010 of the 1,800-member parish, has been called upon once again – this time in a different context. Franco will serve as chair of the board for the new Northwest/South Bronx region, overseeing an ongoing reorganization of 27 borough schools in what the Archdiocese of New York hopes will stanch deep financial losses from decreased enrollment and increased tuition costs. “I’ve been asked to bring together pastors and lay people to get them super excited about saving Catholic schools in the west Bronx,” said Franco. Or, put another way, “I’m being asked not to fail,” he said. The stakes are high for a recent priest to divide responsibilities among a board of eight clergy members who have been ministering to their communities for years. But they have faith in him. “He is very right for the job,” said Msgr. Gerald Ryan of St. Luke’s Church in Mott Haven, where he… [Read full story]

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