Monsignor Paul Jervis, ‘pioneer’ for Brooklyn’s Black Catholic community, dies at 69

paul jervis and church
Monsignor Paul Jervis, who spent 40 years in the priesthood, died last week at the age of 69.
Photos courtesy of the Diocese of Brooklyn

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens is mourning the loss of Monsignor Paul W. Jervis, a beloved figure known as a “champion for racial harmony,” who died on Sept. 5 at the age of 69.

Born in Guyana, Jervis immigrated to the U.S. at 19 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. 

During his 40-year vocation as a priest he served as the pastor for numerous parishes in Brooklyn, including St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise, Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Victory, and the parish of St. Peter Claver — the patron saint of slaves, African missions, and interracial justice.

“Monsignor Paul Jervis was a vibrant pioneer for the Black Catholic community here in Brooklyn and Queens,” said Father Alonzo Cox, Pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, and Director of the Brooklyn Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns. “His leadership inspired not only Black and Caribbean Catholics to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, but also to share their culture with the entire Church of Brooklyn and Queens. Throughout his 40 years of priesthood, Monsignor Jervis made known his love for the Lord and His Church to the souls entrusted to his care.”

In 2009, Jervis was bestowed the title of Prelate of Honor to His Holiness by Pope Benedict XVI. 

The monsignor also a proponent for the canonization of Monsignor Bernard Quinn, who established the first church for Black Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn — the parish of St. Peter Claver in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Jervis worked to collect research and interviews to help build a case for beatification and canonization of Quinn, and in 2005 wrote a book titled “Quintessential Priest: The Life of Monsignor Bernard J. Quinn.”

“He took a stand,” Jervis said of Quinn in 2010. “He saw it as evil for the Klan to force him to move. He felt he had to take a stand and defend the rights of the children. He was simply not going to give in.”

The information was then presented to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints in 2019, and is still under review.

“Monsignor Paul Jervis saw the dignity of every human being and worked tirelessly to open the eyes of all people to love one another,” said Bishop Robert Brennan, in a statement. “Much like Monsignor Bernard Quinn, Monsignor Jervis devoted his life to fostering peace in the face of hatred. He made a lasting impression on those he met, especially within our African American and Guyanese Catholic communities, and with his brother priests as well. His work will continue in the lives of those he inspired.” 

Funeral services for Monsignor Jervis will take place on Sept. 12 at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise Church at 319 Maple St. in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.