When the mayor decided to reach out to Patrick Dorismond’s family, he took a call from a Franciscan who’d been on hold for weeks.
There’s something incongruous, something Tom Wolfe-ian, even, about a friar in a full brown habit perking up to the sound of a telephone and saying, “Excuse me, that might be Johnnie Cochran.” But a little on-the-job power-brokering is simply a new cross to bear for Father Brian Jordan, the 44-year-old Franciscan priest who volunteered to be Rudy Giuliani’s middleman in reaching out to the family of Patrick Dorismond.
Plainspoken and hard-charging, Jordan was born in Cypress Hills and, despite a nine-year tour of duty in Washington, D.C., still speaks out of the side of his mouth in a broad Brooklyn accent. His role as a conciliator, a common calling of Franciscan friars, planted him face-to-face with crack dealers in the Bronx and rioting black and Latino factions in Washington – until last fall, when he was assigned to open a free immigration center in midtown’s bustling Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. In March, Dorismond was gunned down by police seven blocks from the church, and Giuliani publicly aired the Haitian immigrant’s police record. The priest took it personally: He wrote the mayor a letter and began calling City Hall. “I thought it was an unkind act,” Jordan says. “I think I deserved some sort of response.”
After the mayor’s ballyhooed mea culpa about Dorismond at the 92nd Street Y, deputy mayor Joe Lhota finally accepted Jordan’s offer, allowing the priest to reach out to the family on Giuliani’s behalf. “I think he decided he had to make some changes,” the priest says, “but it’s not like Saint Paul falling off the horse. Conversion takes time.” The summit plans immediately hit a bump: The family wanted Cochran in on the visit; the mayor did not. Jordan sympathizes with the family – “Their son was publicly pilloried, and they’re furious” – but is hoping for a purely spiritual first meeting. “This is about reconciliation, not litigation,” the priest says loftily, coining a phrase worthy of the Dorismonds’ worldly lawyer.