Between 1960 and 1962 Father (later Monsignor) Bryan O. Walsh, a young Irish immigrant priest and assistant director of Miami Catholic Charities, supervised the provision of federally-funded foster care to more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children whose parents sent them alone to the United States through a program later known as Operation Pedro Pan. Remembered almost exclusively for his leadership of the Cuban Children’s Program, Walsh’s ministry nonetheless reflected a much broader commitment to immigrant rights that transcended his advocacy on behalf of Miami’s anti-Castro exiles. This article analyzes the relationship between Walsh’s career, the city’s increasingly activist Catholic Church, and the diverse waves of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants that transformed Miami-Dade County between 1960 and 2000. It argues that Walsh’s enduring support for the Cuban exile community, while motivated in part by his unwavering anti-communism, also reflected a lifelong concern for “the stranger and the poor,” deeply rooted in the priest’s diasporic Irish identity, his difficult experience as an immigrant to 1950s America, and the evolution of his spiritual and political worldview within the parameters of the Cold War-era Catholic Church. It concludes that Walsh’s activism, which predated but harmonized with the Church’s evolving priorities following the Second Vatican Council, played a catalytic role in transforming the Archdiocese of Miami into a consistent advocate for hundreds of thousands of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants.


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pp. 99-126
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