Bronx rapper becomes US youngest bishop

The United States’ youngest bishop, Bronx priest Joseph Espaillat, doesn’t always answer his phone. His tendency to let it ring unanswered is rather well known these days.

Sometimes – perhaps inevitably – he misses important calls.

“Four times, this call from Washington, D.C. And I was just like, ‘I’m not picking this up. I don’t owe anybody money,'” he says.

He went about his business.

Undaunted, the caller tried again. Espaillat eventually picked up the sixth call; it was from the Apostolic Nuncio to tell him that Pope Francis had appointed him as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York.

At his episcopal ordination he apologised for his reluctance to answer the phone until the sixth call, adding:

“I, too, would like to publicly apologise because he [the Vatican official he spoke with] called me six times and I thought I owed him money.

“And when I said, ‘Is this a joke?’ in his French accent he goes, ‘No, it is not a joke!'”

Rapping the message for today’s people

Espaillat — known as Father J – is probably not your usual run-of-the-mill priest. For one thing, he’s a rapper.

He says he began using rap as a way to help deliver his message while he was working as a parish priest.

“There was a talent show … and a couple of the young boys wanted to rap, but you know these secular songs and they had a lot of bad words in them.

And I said, ‘I bet you money, I could come up with a rap song’ … and they were like, ‘Oh no, Father, you can’t rap,’ and I was like, ‘Watch,'” Espaillat recalls.

He also has a podcast and YouTube series called “Sainthood in the City.”

You won’t always see him in clerical black either.

A recent video posted on his Instagram account shows the bishop dressed casually, wearing a sweatshirt over his ​​clerical collar.

“As they say in the ‘hood, it’s a new day. Let’s get it,” Espaillat says.

Maybe the new day will include answering his phone. You never know who might be on the end. Or why.


Additional reading

News category: Palmerston, World.