Benedict Taylor, OFM
1932 – 2021
Fr. Benedict Taylor, OFM, was born on Dec. 13, 1932 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He attended St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, at the time the school’s only Black student. He was received into the Franciscan Order in 1953, professing first vows one year later. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Bonaventure University and completed theological studies before professing his final vows as a Franciscan in 1957. He was ordained to the priesthood three years later.
After ordination, Fr. Ben completed a year of pastoral theology training at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston before he was assigned to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. He worked there from 1961 to 1967, familiarizing himself with the city’s culture and needs. During that time, while serving as a spiritual assistant to the Secular Franciscan Order, he met Martin Luther King Jr. and spoke with him about the civil rights movement in America.
In 1967, Fr. Ben moved uptown to Harlem with several other friars to establish a Franciscan community to serve the poor and address justice and peace issues. Several years later, he and Ralph Perez, a former employee of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, founded Project CREATE (Chance to Re-Evolve a Total Environment). The ministry provided help to individuals and families at all stages in life – from young adults to seniors – who were facing addiction, homelessness, hunger and unemployment. Beginning in a storefront in 1972, it evolved over the next 50 years to offer vocational counseling, transitional housing for young adults, substance abuse treatment, supportive housing for families, and a food pantry.
Throughout his life, Fr. Ben was honored by state, city and religious organizations for his work on behalf of the poor. In 1979, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of sacred theology from Siena College in Loudonville, New York. In his later years, he served as a consultant for CREATE’s vast network of social service programs. After living for many years in Harlem, Fr. Ben moved in 2017 to the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx where he resided with friars from the Province and served as chaplain to the college.
He died on Jan. 8, 2021 in Yonkers, New York. Fr. Benedict was 88 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 66 years and a priest for 60.