Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) renamed a permanent housing site in Prospect Heights after Daily last Wednesday. First acquired in 1985, the building used to be a Catholic grammar school called St. Joseph’s. It was one of the first supportive housing sites established in the outer boroughs.
In 2014, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency financed a $10.4 million renovation of the complex. The building added six new units, made bedrooms more efficient, and updated the building systems.
Today, the Brooklyn site has 60 units of affordable housing. Each tenant pays a different rent depending on his or her situation.
“It’s more than just a building, it’s a home for people,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who succeeded Daily in 2003. “It’s a newly renovated, beautiful place, a home for people that need a home.”
Daily was born in Massachusetts and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston in 1952. After briefly serving at St. Ann’s church in Quincy, Massachusetts, Daily went to Lima, Peru, where he was a missionary for five years.
When he went back to Boston in the 1970s, Daily served as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston. He later spent time as the bishop of a new diocese in Palm Beach, Florida, before arriving in Brooklyn in 1990.
Daily served in Brooklyn until 2003, when he resigned. Daily didn’t attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but pastors who worked with Daily throughout his 13-year tenure praised him for improving the lives of others.
“Bishop Daily provided our diocese with vision, leadership and unwavering support,” said Reverend Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, president and CEO of CCBQ. “I’m happy that this building will now proudly bear his name and stand witness to his lifetime of work among the neediest among us.”
Monsignor Ralph Maresca, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, was the bishop’s secretary for more than a decade. He spoke about driving around the borough with Daily, who would point out many vacant buildings that he thought could serve as housing.
“His commitment was always to the poor and was an inspiration to me and so many others,” Maresca said. “The bishop would always say that the church must be poor, but we must be rich in faith, compassion and charity.
“Today, as we dedicate this residence in his honor, his dream of caring for the poor and homeless is being fulfilled,” he added.
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna said it was important to dedicate the building to Daily while he’s living. She recognized his “lifelong trajectory of work” for those in need and the most vulnerable.
“To be able to have this particular building expanded to continue that legacy was very moving,” she said. “There’s a debt of gratitude the City of New York has for our faith-based community.”
Reyna said in the 1960s and 70s, communities like Williamsburg and Bushwick were “burnt down” and abandoned. Buildings were dilapidated, and there was a lack of services. Lots were derelict and “became garbage dumps.”
But Catholic Charities played a crucial role in revitalizing those neighborhoods, she said.
“Today, we have volumes of organizations from these institutions, people coming together as parishioners, to rebuild from the ashes of the hardest of days,” Reyna said. “Through sweat equity, making sure that these neighborhoods where I grew up were going to have better days ahead.”
Bishop DiMarzio said the Diocese of Brooklyn has dedicated many church properties to housing. They have more than 3,000 units of housing for low and middle-income people, which he called “a real accomplishment.”
“Much of it was built on church property that was not being used or schools that were closed,” he said. “We have never hesitated to help whenever it was possible.”
In describing his predecessor’s dedication, DiMarzio spoke about how Daily leaned Quechua, the local dialect of the natives of Lima during his time as a missionary.
“Being his successor, I recognize that his missionary spirit was always part of his ministry,” DiMarzio said. “It’s nice to be able to dedicate this to him today, it’s a good tribute to his work.”