Dolores Bernadette Grier, who served as vice chancellor for community relations in the archdiocese and also was an outspoken and effective advocate for the cause of life, died Feb. 22.
Her brother, Robert, told CNY that following Miss Grier’s long pattern and expressed wishes the family would not reveal her age at the time of her death. He did say that his sister died on her birthday.
A Funeral Mass will be offered at her parish church, St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem, Wednesday, March 7, at 11 a.m.
A viewing will take place there, beginning at 10 a.m.
Miss Grier was named vice chancellor by Cardinal John O’Connor, then Archbishop of New York, in 1985. An article in CNY when the appointment was announced said that she was believed to have been the first black woman appointed to such a position nationwide.
“Dolores Grier is friendly but she can be firm, too,” Cardinal O’Connor told CNY. “She has a clear understanding of Church teaching. In any kind of forum or debate, she remains calm, balanced and straightforward on Church teaching, and she’s able to articulate even the most complicated positions.”
Miss Grier, in the same article, said she viewed her appointment “as an indication that the Church is interested in utilizing talents and skills of all its people, and especially interested in bringing women into the active operation of the Church, rendering service to people.”
Her tenure as vice chancellor extended for 15 years, capping a professional career in which she served the Church for half a century. She worked for archdiocesan Catholic Charities for many years, beginning in the Department of Child Care before transferring to the Catholic Charities Guidance Institute. She also was director of community services for Charities’ Central Harlem office and finished with the Department of Social Development.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar for clergy, first became familiar with Miss Grier during their tenures at Catholic Charities. As a social worker, Miss Grier “was interested in people,” the bishop told CNY. “She was not judgmental. She talked to anybody.”
Her ability to be an effective voice for pro-life views, especially within the black community in New York City and elsewhere, resonated with Cardinal O’Connor, said Bishop Walsh who served as his priest secretary from 1996 to 1998.
“(Cardinal O’Connor) had a lot of respect for her,” Bishop Walsh said.
Miss Grier spoke with conviction and authority against the “black genocide” of abortion that continues to grip the black and Hispanic communities in New York City, a message that was unpopular in some circles. In a 1994 CNY article about the first Central Harlem Vicariate Respect Life Conference, Miss Grier strongly criticized Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices. “What are they bringing to us, people of color?” she asked. “They’re not bringing jobs, they’re not bringing food, they’re not bringing skills. They’re bringing death.”
In 1993, Miss Grier refused an honor from the New York City branch of the NAACP because of the organization’s pro-abortion stance.
Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry (OBM), called Miss Grier “a one-of-a-kind person, as a black woman and a woman of faith.”
Miss Grier was a 2010 recipient of the Pierre Toussaint Medallion, awarded annually at the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Dinner sponsored by OBM.
She received an honorary doctorate from Iona College in 1986.
A native of Harlem, she was a teenage convert to Catholicism. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York and a master’s in social work from Fordham University.
Miss Grier is survived by three brothers, Reginald, Vernon and Robert.
Burial will be in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.