Reverend James Gilmour
St. Cecelia’s Parish Services
“Harlem is beautifully diverse.”
“I am a New Yorker. I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island and my ethnic background is English, Irish, Scottish and German. I speak Spanish because I was in Paraguay for 20 years and I’ve been graced with the Latin American language and culture from living and working among the people.
My inspiration for choosing to work among the Latino people came when I was in college seminary in Hartford, Connecticut where there were so many Spanish speakers in the 1960’s who did not have Spanish speaking priests in the churches. So my idea was to go to South America with the idea to return to work in the Hispanic ministry in the United States.
St. Cecelia’s has always been a center for Catholic life in East Harlem. I had been here from 1990 to 1993 and I just returned in 2005. East Harlem was very different in the early 1990’s, plagued by drugs and crime, but now it has evolved and it’s a wonderful community to be in. Most of the community here is historically Puerto Rican, Dominican, and African-American, but our younger families are Mexican, Ecuadorian and Filipino. We honor a variety of traditions and devotions here at St. Cecelia’s and that enriches the whole community.
We had a great experience this Christmas with the Puerto Rican Aguinaldo, a celebration in dance, music and song. There is something very important about the arts that ennobles the community. It was a wonderful and moving experience.
Ultimately, through our religious leadership, we look to fulfill all that is good in a human person, so that the community can then be wholesome. Everybody deserves respect and deserves to be cared for. This is at the core of our family values that can extend to the human family or neighborhood.”
Reverend Gilmour has fulfilled his childhood dream to be a foreign missionary. Now, back home in New York City, he brings a wealth of experience and respect to the East Harlem religious community with a new mission to help us overcome our prejudices so that we might “value each other and appreciate the beauty in each of us.”