Born on February 7, 1940, 13 minutes after his twin brother Joseph, Fr. John Grange has been an inspiration to succeeding waves of Catholic immigrants to the Bronx, a borough he knows and understands in a way only a native and pastor can ever hope to. Ultimately one of five children born to Margaret and Joseph Grange, John Grange spent his early years “constantly on the move.” This, he says, meant home being on Alexander Avenue, 138th Street and 136th Street, twice.
The future Father Grange attended St. Jerome’s Grammer school where he played “a lot of hoops” with the Christian brothers. Sports and academics under the brothers combined to impart a strong sense of discipline and this would help spur the young man’s decision to continue his studies at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary.
“I recalled writing that I wished to help others and the best way was to be a priest. So after 12 seemingly endless years, I was ordained by Francis Cardinal Spellman on May 28, 1966,” explains Fr. Grange.
The young priest’s first assignment was Saint Columbia parish on West 25th Street in Manhattan. After six years, he was sent to Annunciation Church on West 135th Street. There, most of the people were recent arrivals from the Dominican Republic. “I always seem to arrive where immigrants were arriving. I think that I had a feel for the work,” says Fr. Grange.
In 1976, Fr. Grange return to the Bronx, to the parish of St. Jerome on Alexander Avenue. It has been his home ever since.
As he explains: “It would be best to separate my years at St. Jerome into decades. The first ten-year space was all destruction, damage, death and decay. Our baptismal rate fell to zero. Church burial rate rose to one a week. However, the destruction began to lessen. Good realities such as our school began to grow.
“Then on one cold 12th of December the doorbell would not stop ringing. People were coming into the church to visit and sing to Our Lady of Guadalupe. A new era had begun. The Mexicans had started to arrive. We began to bounce back and are still on the upswing. God is still about us all with great love.”