Welcoming a New Leader!

Dear Friends of Reconnect,

Thirteen years ago, Efrain Hernandez and I began Reconnect in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  There was no grand plan apart from the urgent need to create something in a neighborhood where just too many good young people – particularly young men- were caught up living out the consequences of the seeming failure of every system around them.  Abandoned by a world that should have protected and nurtured them, they found themselves creating their own systems to survive.  The human outcomes of these toxic realities weren’t statistics – they were people we all knew and loved.  At the funeral service of one of Efrain’s best friends who was murdered, I shared with the broken-hearted family and friends that we would be starting a new project to create an alternative for the young folks of the neighborhood.  We launched Reconnect with $2,000, hiring our first five young men to clean up an abandoned lot on Vernon Avenue.  We planted a garden.

There has never been anything particularly clever about Reconnect – rather, it has been built on collective hard work, along with a naïve willingness to take risks- all at the service of the bedrock belief that human beings have the right to be loved, respected and included, despite societal bigotry or personal history. Thirteen years have witnessed nearly 350 young men employed who have become the Reconnect Community.  We have been so richly gifted with incredible youth partners, extraordinary supporters and an incomparable staff.  In 2020, Reconnect moved to its’ new home in Queens and is flourishing in a space that allows Reconnect to grow into its’ next phase of life.  I am so proud of what Reconnect has become and so excited about what it will be.

And now, I am extremely happy to be handing on the role of Executive Director to
Lou Miceli who is a leader and pioneer in the accompaniment and development of young people who bear the weight of our systems of injustice.  You will get to know Lou as a gift to the Reconnect Community.  He will bring fresh eyes, an astute mind and a noble heart to lead this unique and blessed organization.  As for me, I will join the Reconnect Board of Directors and continue to do what I can to support Reconnect.  Efrain will continue with the Reconnect team – bearing the memory of our beginnings and accompanying new generations of precious young people.

As I think back on thirteen years, I can easily laugh and easily cry, but mostly, I can easily give thanks that I was privileged to be a part of such a genuine journey of young people, who – despite all that life so unfairly placed in their way- worked so hard to glimpse and experience the great truth of who they are – magnificently graced members of the human family.   What a mission! What marvelous people! I am so grateful that Reconnect will continue to thrive!

With sincere appreciation,

Father Jim O’Shea, CP