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Remembering Georgianna Glose, A Brooklyn Nun And Activist

Georgianna Glose died last month of complications from the coronavirus. She stands in front of the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, a nonprofit she founded nearly 25 years ago.
Leslie Silva
Courtesy of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership
Georgianna Glose died last month of complications from the coronavirus. She stands in front of the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, a nonprofit she founded nearly 25 years ago.

Georgianna Glose, an outspoken advocate for the poor and disadvantaged and a nun who sounded the alarm on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, was a fixture in her longtime Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood of Fort Greene.

Glose died last month at the age of 73 from complications linked to the coronavirus.

"She embodied the spirit of our profession and of a progressive nun, and she did it her way," Teresa Theophano, a close friend of Glose, told NPR's Scott Simon. "She was a reverent woman with a hilariously irreverent streak. I loved that about her."

Theophano worked with Glose at the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, a nonprofit where Glose created educational programs aimed at mobilizing residents through literacy, job preparedness, and support for seniors and caregivers, among other services.

"She was passionate about putting anti-racism into practice for white social workers and what it meant to collaborate with communities of color without taking on a white savior complex, especially in a gentrifying neighborhood that was just rife with tension and inequity," Theophano said.

Glose, director and founder of the Fort Greene SNAP, was active in serving her community through the organization up until her final days.

In a stunt he described as "classic Georgianna," Glose's friend Victor Ayala told The New York Times that she called him from the hospital, hoping he would take over her teaching duties at SNAP.

"She's about to go under a respirator and she's calling to tell me what to do with the students," Ayala said. "Her humanity was just so alive."

Glose left her convent of the Roman Catholic order, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, N.Y., in 1969 when she moved to Fort Greene, where she'd spent previous summers working alongside her sisters.

There, Glose, along with two other sisters in her order, joined the priests of St. Michael-St. Edward Church.

Glose, whose parents instilled the value of education in their three children from an early age, went on to earn a master's degree at Hunter College and a doctorate in Social Welfare from the City University of New York. According to The Times, she wrote her dissertation about the racism African American nuns faced in the Catholic community.

While she studied and taught, she continued her social work in Brooklyn.

An obituary from the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville cites an anecdote of the support network she arranged to keep elderly people connected.

"In 1973 she set up a telephone reassurance service coordinating a staff of volunteers who would call, on a daily basis, seniors who lived alone. She asked for and received financial help from a number of our convents to cover the large monthly phone bill," the tribute read.

In 1993, Glose learned about allegations of child sex abuse by a priest at the St. Michael-St. Edward parish. It strained Glose's trust in church leadership.

In a 2017 interview with The Global Sisters Report, she called the revelations a "huge betrayal" for all three of the sisters who, after contacting potential victims and building more evidence of abuse within the institution, reported their findings to the Brooklyn Diocese. But they felt he hadn't taken proper action at the time.

During those dark times, Glose said their faith and their social work kept them afloat.

Theophano said her friend's whistleblowing is "an excellent example of the fearlessness that she put forth in all of her actions."

Glose showed that doggedness could go hand-in-hand with gentleness.

"She really stood up for her ideals and for other people," Theophano said. "But she was kind, and she was patient, at the same time that she didn't take any crap from anybody."

Glose is survived by her younger sister Katherine and her older brother Steve.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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