As everyone knows, it’s a long way from the Bronx to Ethiopia. But no one knows better than Brother Gregory Flynn, FSC, who left his native Bronx for Ethiopia more than 33 years ago. To some, he is “Greg,” to others he is “Brother Gregory,” and to his large Irish Catholic family he will always simply be “Jack.”
As the eldest of seven children, Brother Gregory attended St. Simon Stock grammar school in the Bronx and Good Shepherd in Inwood. But, early on he knew he wanted to follow a life of service to the poor and entered the Christian Brothers at age 15. After graduating from the Catholic University of America in 1959 with a BA in History, Brother Gregory began his teaching career. He never asked for the “easy” assignments and taught in two south Bronx elementary schools, Sacred Heart, Highbridge and St. Augustine, Morrisania.
It was 1969 when Brother Gregory volunteered as a missionary to Ethiopia where he taught school until 1975. By that time, the overwhelming poverty surrounding him day in and day out planted the seed that he could make more of a difference in the lives of the people of Addis. He believed that if he developed and worked in programs that improved skills and self-sufficiency among the poor people of Addis, he would be accomplish more on their behalf. Thus, he returned to the U.S. to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham University to provide him the cachet with the Ethiopian government to form programs to help street children.
Brother Gregory returned to Ethiopia in 1982, at which time he attended Amharic language school. In 1983, while working in a relief camp to feed starving famine victims, he was taken captive by a rebel group. He was released seven weeks later in Khartoum, Sudan.
After a recovery period in New York, he again returned to Ethiopia and was subsequently asked to become Deputy Secretary-General of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, also heading up the Relief and Development Department. He currently serves as a board member of several non-governmental organizations, including St. Francis Children’s Care Program (SFCCP). It is in his capacity as chairman of the board of this organization that Brother Gregory became involved in developing a sponsorship program for the children and their mothers being served by SFCCP in the Addis-Hope program.
As a program administrator for the last few years, working with dedicated people like Ruth Girmay (whom he names his personal heroine) and Addis-Hope, he is able to assist children of the street and their mothers by contributing his Social Security and FSC Pension funds to the program. This has been his major calling as a Lasallian for the last 25 years.
Brother Gregory now calls Addis Ababa home, however distant it may be from the Bronx, and considers himself part of the landscape. He loves its people and wants to continue his service as long as he is able, in the hope of making a difference.