March 27, 2023
REST IN PEACE
Vincent Quayle, former priest who fought discriminatory housing, dies at 83
Vincent “Vinnie” Quayle, a former Jesuit priest who passionately fought blockbusting, redlining and other discriminatory practices in the real estate and housing industries in Baltimore, died March 27, 2023.
The founder of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore and a longtime parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi in North Baltimore was 83 and had been in ill health.
Soon after arriving in Baltimore as a Jesuit seminarian in the late 1960s, Quayle immersed himself in the community and became a key leader in fighting racial injustice in city housing. The New York native was involved in high-profile campaigns against unscrupulous real estate agents who scared white families out of their homes only to resell those houses to Black families at inflated prices. Together with his friend, Monsignor Edward Miller, he also helped lead pickets against banks that would not offer fair lending to the Black community.
Quayle founded St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in 1968 with seed money provided by Catholic Charities of Baltimore after visiting Shelter Housing Aid Center in London. He applied community education principles he learned in London and in earlier training in a Saul Alinsky community organization in Chicago to his work in Baltimore.
In a December 1970 interview with the Catholic Review, then-Father Quayle was sharply critical of the real estate industry. He had obtained his real estate sales license only three months after his June 1970 ordination to the priesthood. His goal was to be a positive force in the industry, helping home buyers and sellers know their rights and obtain fair deals.
“The large brokerage firms that control the best housing in the city have withdrawn their skills and services from inner-city people,” he told the Catholic Review. “This is especially true in their dealings with the Black community.”
Quayle spent more than four decades at St. Ambrose Housing, retiring in 2011. Over his long tenure, he worked with civil rights activists Jack Martinez, Sampson Green and Walter P. Carter.
According to a 2012 Catholic Review interview with Quayle when he was named “Hibernian of the Year” by the Hibernian Society of Baltimore, St. Ambrose Housing had by that time helped more than 100,000 families. Named after the West Baltimore parish served by Monsignor Miller, St. Ambrose Housing is the city’s oldest nonprofit housing provider.
Leah Mason-Grant, senior property manager for rental services at St. Ambrose Housing who has worked for the agency for nearly 38 years, remembered that her friend was a hard worker who inspired many to labor just as hard as he did to “see his vision through.”
“It was so important to him because of what he saw in the 1960s,” Mason-Grant remembered. “He thought Black families were not being treated very well and were being pushed out. He saw institutions in Baltimore taking great advantage and he just had it in his heart that this wasn’t right. He started out knocking on doors, asking people about their situations and seeing if they needed help.”
Pamela L. Petty, housing counseling director at St. Ambrose Housing who has worked at the organization for 26 years, said Quayle saw the people who worked there as part of a large family. St. Ambrose started off with Quayle and a handful of other leaders. It has grown to include 38 employees today, Petty said.
“The mission is to serve the underserved and make sure those folks obtain the opportunities and the information they need,” Petty said.
She remembered that Quayle sometimes took the staff to Cape May in New Jersey and made everyone feel included.
“Vinnie was really about the family,” she said.
Petty said Quayle’s Catholic faith was always important to him. He had been taught by activist Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Jesuit Prep in the 1950s and was a former student of the late Indian Jesuit and mystic Anthony De Mello, according to a 2012 Catholic Review article.
After leaving the priesthood, Quayle married Patricia Connolly. Together, they raised three sons.
“He was open about his faith and he didn’t try to separate that from his work,” Petty said. “We had open conversations about faith.”
Christopher Gaul, an investigative reporter for WJZ-TV who would later become managing editor of the Catholic Review, interviewed Quayle for a high-profile 1970 investigative news series on blockbusting.
With rising stature in the community, Quayle wrote several commentaries for the Catholic Review while still a priest. He also contributed to other publications.
In a 1972 commentary in the Catholic Review, he urged more training in social justice for priests and nuns. He said more activism and political engagement was needed among the clergy.
“The church’s voice should be heard in the chambers of Annapolis,” Quayle wrote. “For far too long, and yet understandably, sisters and priests have neglected their civic duties as leaders within their communities.”
He was a tireless advocate for a strong Catholic presence in the city.
“If the church in the city dies,” he wrote in a 1970 Catholic Review commentary, “the church in the county will survive only as a lie. The present generation may deceive itself, but the next generation of Catholics will rebel. They will never forgive us for abandoning our weakest members, those most in need of support.”
Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Patricia “Pat” Connolly, a retired paralegal; three sons, Thomas V. Quayle of Sacramento, Matthew F. Quayle of Baltimore and Paul C. Quayle of East Lansing, Michigan; a brother, Paul Quayle of Paducah, Kentucky; two sisters, Mary Quayle of New York City and Kathleen Quayle of Long Island, New York; and four grandchildren.
An 11 a.m. funeral Mass will be offered April 10 at St. Francis of Assisi in Baltimore.
Obituary from Catholic Review, Baltimore MD