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Br. Ricardo Professes Solemn Vows at St. Helena

Br. Ricardo Professes Solemn Vows at St. Helena

Br. Ricardo David Rivera Ortiz of the Face of Jesus and St. Joachim professed his perpetual, solemn religious vows during a nearly two-hour, bi-lingual Mass on June 23 before the Superior General of the Piarist Fathers at St. Helena Parish in Parkchester.  All Piarist Fathers profess religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a special fourth religious vow to educate youth, especially the poor.

Br. Ricardo has just completed his third year of seminary studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.  He is the third of five children of Dr. Hector and Zelideth Rivera of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.  He began his discernment with the Piarist Fathers in 2006 and in 2011 graduated with a BFA and a concentration in painting from the University of Puerto Rico.  He did some professional modeling before joining the Piarist Fathers, and he was sent to Miami to study philosophy.  He graduated with a BA in 2013 from St. John Vianney Seminary and was then sent to Mexico City for a year for his novitiate.  He then made temporary vows and was sent by his religious superiors to Puerto Rico to complete his teaching certification, which he did in 2015 at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and he was then sent to St. Helena Parish in the Bronx for his theological studies.  He enjoys singing and is a first tenor with the St. Joseph’s Seminary Schola Cantorum.

Br. Ricardo’s family flew in for the event.  Also present were priests from the seminary, over 100 parishioners, and over 30 members from the Piarist Fathers Province of the United States and Puerto Rico who attended the solemn profession, which was made before the Piarist Superior General, the Most Rev. Pedro Aquado, Sch.P. who flew in from the Piarist Generalate in Rome for the occasion.  Solemn vows are taken publicly and are received by a religious superior in the name of the Church.  Temporary vows are taken for a fixed period of time while perpetual vows never expire.  Only the pope can dispense a person from solemn vows. A religious community of men whose members profess solemn vows is called a religious Order, and its members are called “regulars.” The formal name of the Piarist Fathers is the Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Pious Schools.  Founded by St. Joseph Calasanz in 1617, The Piarist Fathers is the only religious order of men whose members profess a religious vow to educated youth.  In 1597, St. Joseph Calasanz opened the world’s first free public school in Europe.  There are now 1,400 Piarist Fathers teaching in 36 counties around the world.

Br. Ricardo Professes Solemn Vows at St. Helena
Br. Ricardo Professes Solemn Vows at St. Helena


Contact:  Rev. David Powers, Sch.P. 718-892-3232

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Three killed when gunfire erupts on Castle Hill Ave.

Three killed when gunfire erupts on Castle Hill Ave.
Date: 6/21/18


Three people were killed in a barrage of gunfire near a strip mall in Castle Hill Ave. on the first day of summer Thursday — and the victims include an apparently innocent bystander, police said.

The shooting erupted on Castle Hill Avenue between Cincinnatus and Randall Avenues nearby NYCHA’s Castle Hill Houses at about 9:50am., sending fearful bystanders ducking for cover.

The gunman walked up towards two of the victims, identified by sources as Mustafa Tarver, 33, and Christopher Alleyne, 33, “and began firing at them,” said NYPD assistant chief of detectives in the Bronx Jason Wilcox.
The shooter, who remains at-large, “fired several shots from in front of 620 Castle Hill Avenue,” Wilcox said.
Tarver and Alleyne, who locals said were “best friends” and fathers who lived at the Castle Hill Houses, suffered gunshot wounds to the head. Law enforcement sources said Tarver was the gunman’s intended target.
The third victim, identified by sources as Arileida Jimenez, 45, also of the Castle Hill Houses, was shot in the torso.
“It appears as if she might be an innocent bystander, but the investigation is very early in its stages,” said Wilcox, adding that it was not immediately known what led up to the morning shooting.

All three victims were rushed to Jacobi Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.
Jimenez sitting at a Healthfirst insurance table set up outside the Mannam Medical Center before the shooting. It was not immediately known whether she worked for either entity.
Following the shooting, the gunman, wearing dark clothes, fled on foot towards Randall Avenue and police were searching a building at the Castle Hill Houses for him.
Authorities say they have surveillance footage that “paints a picture of what occurred with the shooting” and they are actively looking for more.

Police were also looking into whether the shooting was gang-related, sources said.

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St. Helena 4th Annual Community Carnival

St. Helena 4th Annual Community Carnival

For decades, the St. Helena Carnival was a mainstay in Parkchester.  Then one year, back in the 1980’s, the city enacted some new entertainment laws, and many of the small, parish carnivals suddenly stopped.   Four years ago, St. Helena’s had a new pastor who decided with the encouragement of many parishioners to hold a one-day Community Fun Day event.  Then the next year, it grew into a three-day community carnival, complete with rides and food and games.  The rides were presented by the next generation of the original carnival ride venders.  This year, the Parish Community Carnival will will last for four days, June 28-July 1, and will offer more rides and games and food and music and community information tables.

“The St. Helena Carnival has always  been a community event,” said Rev. David Powers, Sch.P., the pastor of St. Helena, who is a Piarist Father.  Many people from Parkchester can walk to the Carnival and spend a pleasant day or evening with their families.  Father Powers can be found every day of the Carnival in a red volunteer shirt on the midway selling ride tickets in the special ticket booth.  There are absolutely no alcoholic beverages sold or allowed at the carnival to help maintain its family atmosphere.

There are rides available for the little kids, youngsters, teens, and adults.  This year, the nephew of the original carnival vendors and who has worked for two years along side his uncles has ventured out on his own and started his own amusement company, and the St. Helena Carnival will be his first carnival in the Bronx for Norman Amusements.

The parish is conveniently located on the 6 Train Route between the Parkchester and Castle Hill train stops, or it is easily accessible by the Bx4 Bus.

This year, the Carnival will offer Unlimited Ride Tickets available for $25 at the Carnival.  Or to save some money, people can visit the rectory, which is located at 1315 Olmstead Avenue, and purchase special pre-sale tickets.  Single Day unlimited ride tickets are available for $20, and there is a sheet of 15 tickets available for $12.  These special tickets are available until 5PM on June 28 at the rectory.  For the first time, the carnival will accept credit cards.

Besides the rides, the food is always another main attraction for carnival attendees.  The ladies of St. Helena’s prepare a wide variety of ethnic foods, including Mexican, Puerto Rican, and American foods.  Of course, there is also the usual Carnival foods, such as snow cones, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and fried oreos.

There will be a live D.J., and raffle tickets.  Information tables will be available from various community groups, including the N.Y. Department of Human Rights and ArchCare.

The Carnival will be open Thursday, June 28 from 6-10PM, Friday, June 29 from 6-11PM, Saturday, June 39 from NOON-11PM, and Sunday, July 1 from NOON-10PM.

Every years the Carnival grows a little more, and perhaps next year, it will creep out of the parish’s spacious parking lot and out onto Olmstead Avenue, but one thing is for certain, it will always maintain its Family-Friendly and Community-Centered purpose.

For more information or for pre-sale tickets, call 718-892-3232.

Contact:  Rev. David Powers, Sch.P.


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Ahmed saves Ethiopia from collapse; for now

Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed

By Teshome M. Borago | PT Staff writer

Credited for beginning the reformation of an important African country of 100 million people; the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has become an unlikely hero.

A son of Muslim family from the Jimma zone of Oromia state in Ethiopia; Dr. Abiy Ahmed is from the Oromo ethnic group. The last time a leader with Muslim background rose to power in Addis Ababa; the Ethiopian bureaucracy quickly overthrew him in months. It was Ethiopian Emperor Iyasu V who reigned in 1913 with the help of his father Imam Mohammed Ali, until the then powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church and rivals inside the Imperial family revolted, because they feared his Muslim association.

But this time around, Ethiopia is a secular nation and Dr. Abiy Ahmed appears to have the overwhelming support of the Ethiopian people.

Last Saturday, millions of Ethiopians rallied in the capital Addis Ababa and several other cities to show support for Dr. Abiy. Ironically, the source of his growing popularity is his bold criticism of his own EPRDF ruling party, to which he belongs.

The EPRDF has ruled Ethiopia for 27 years with an iron fist: often jailing opponents, killing activists and siphoning resources to the elites of the Tigrayan ethnic group. The EPRDF party’s first major test was in a 2005 election, when millions rallied and voted for the opposition, but the regime massacred around 200 protesters and locked up the opposition. The EPRDF’s second major test came from Ethiopian Muslims who bravely protested in cities nationwide against religious persecution. Finally, the EPRDF’s Tigrayan rulers got a taste of their own medicine when ethnic enclaves rebelled one by one. When the two largest ethnic groups – the Oromo and Amhara– rose up in 2015 with coordinated nationwide protests, by choking commercial routes and over-stretching the military: the EPRDF government panicked. It initially tried to respond to peaceful protests by killing hundreds more Ethiopians, but that did not work.

Then EPRDF held emergency inner-party meetings to find a way out. Continuing the deadly military response to the emboldened protestors could have pushed the country toward collapse or civil war. So it had to make a compromise. As both a survival strategy for the ruling party and to bring peace to the nation, the ruling party forced its former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign. Under pressure from an Oromo faction inside the EPRDF party, the government selected Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali as a replacement PM.

And what a historic decision it has been. PM Dr Abiy Ahmed has become the Uniter-in-chief, healing old wounds not only between political and ethnic groups but also between neighboring countries like Eritrea. He released thousands of political prisoners and apologized for the sins of the ruling party. He released journalists and even allowed exiled top media groups, ESAT and OMN, to operate inside Ethiopia. He invited domestic opposition groups to his Palace and made peace. He convinced armed military opposition groups; like the Ginbot 7 and former OLF leaders, to drop their weapons and operate peacefully inside the country. During a recent mass demonstration in the capital, people chanted slogans to support their new Prime Minister while some waved the flag of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in the crowd, a symbolic image never witnessed before.

Abiy Ahmed has effectively reformed Ethiopian politics from the inside out. During one recent parliamentary session broadcasted live on TV, he blamed his own ruling party of torturing people and “terrorizing” the country. By becoming the voice of dissident in his own government, Abiy has stabilized the country and calmed the protestors.

His statesman rhetoric and progressive actions have set the foundation for real change. So far, He has walked the perfect balance between ethnic nationalism and Ethiopian nationalism. Thus, both tribal nationalists and multiethnic nationalists like pop icon Teddy Afro are singing his gospel.

Some critics still don’t trust the system is fair and regional tribal authorities are persecuting perceived minorities with impunity. The senseless killings of ethnic minorities last month prove that more must be done. Abiy can fix these urgent problems if he quickly uses his popular mandate to further reform key institutions like the military, judiciary and election board as well as rearrange the federal structure to empower regional autonomy while promoting multiethnic identities. After all, by ancestry, most Ethiopians are mixed, including Abiy himself.

To de-ethnicize federalism, Abiy must change the format of the next Ethiopian national Census, by redefining “ethnicity” away from its current narrow politico-linguistic feature toward a more comprehensive definition that includes ancestry. Such Census reform will reveal that most Ethiopians are mixed ethnic-Ethiopians by ancestry; not just a bunch of competing tribes destined to clash forever. Establishing a common denominator in identity development is the key to long-term mitigation of ethnic conflicts. Abiy is the perfect man to do this Census reform because he has credibility among the largest tribe – the Oromo – despite himself being a mixed-Ethiopian with multiethnic ancestry. Without Census reform, it is impossible to de-politicize ethnicity if ethnic affiliation continues to correlate with political affiliation.

With corrupt regional officials and the old guard in the ruling party working to sabotage him, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must move fast to democratize and unify the country. Timing is everything.

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Civil Rights Icon Claudette Colvin Honored at Parkchester NAACP Meeting


By Robert Press

During the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 there was a young 15 year old girl who stood up for her right to sit on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. Her name was Claudette Colvin who happened to be colored (the term used back then), and she became an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement after being taken off the bus by police for refusing to give her seat up to a young white woman. 

As Ms. Colvin told the audience Sunday, “I paid my bus fare and it is my constitutional right to sit here.” That lasted only until police officers boarded the bus to arrest Ms. Colvin. She said that she had been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King who was seeking equality in the south by the Civil Right’s Movement. Ms. Colvin went on to say that her colored friends who were with her and gave up their seats stayed away from her.

Ms. Colvin mentioned that a male classmate who was friendly with a white girl wound up being lynched a few years later after six white claimed that he raped them. Life was very tough for a young colored girl growing up in the south during her childhood. Life was tough for all colored people who were treated as second class citizens in the south.

While Ms. Claudette Colvin’s event on a Montgomery Alabama bus preceded Rosa Parks, Ms. Colvin did not receive the media coverage that Ms. Parks was given. That was because the Civil Rights Movement had progressed, and the time the Rosa Parks incident came about it was then news. Ms. Colvin did testify before the Supreme Court in the case that determined that bus segregation in Alabama was unconstitutional. That then began the desegregation movement in Alabama and the rest of the south.

Congressman Joe Crowley was on hand to present to Ms. Colvin a flag which flew over the U.S. Capital, and said that Ms. Colvin is a fine example of greatness and what is good in this country. Congressman Crowley added that he is honored to commend Ms. Colvin for her Courageous achievements.

Ms. Colvin also received a proclamation from State Senator Luis Sepulveda. Senator Sepulveda spoke of his grandfather who taught him about the Civil Rights Movement, and that Ms. Colvin’s act should be in the history books also. he added that it took courage for a 15 year old black girl to do what you did by saying “no I have a constitutional right to sit here.” He finished by saying “Ms. Colvin – you are history.”

Ms. Colvin stayed to take questions from members of the audience, and take photos with them. 

State Senator Luis Sepulveda, Ms. Claudette Colvin, Congressman Joe Crowley, and the President of the Parkchester NAACP Ms. Beverly Roberts.
Ms. Colvin taking questions from members of the audience.

The officers and committee members of the Parkchester NAACP with Ms. Colvin.
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Bronx Week Parade 2018


By Robert Press

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and his co-host for the Bronx Week Parade Bronxnet television personality Ms. Rhina Valentin arrived before the parade began, so they warmed up the people arriving as to just what they would see. BP Diaz said “You will see Bronx Pride on display by residents of the Bronx.” 

  The three Bronx Walk of Fame inductees for 2018 were Ms. Tarana Burke the founder of the “Me Too Move moment”, Mr. Richard Martin Lloyd Walters, better known as Bronx Rap artist ‘Slick Rick’, and Ms. Maggie Siff of star ‘Billions’ on Showtime Network. Ms. Siff had to catch a flight and missed the Bronx Week parade across Mosholu Parkway.


Above- Honorees Tarana Burke and Slick Rick as they arrive to the reviewing stage.

Below – The honorees with BP Diaz, co-host Valentin, and Councilman Andy King.

The Bronx Week Parade continued for over an hour as schools, community organizations, elected officials, and others marched across the parkway, with some school or community organizations showing off their talents for the Honorees, Borough President, audience, and other watching the parade.
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Public School Chancellor Visits Parkchester Charter School

By Robert Press
Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza visited the Excellence Community Charter School located at 1960 Benedict Avenue this past week. Chancellor Carranza wanted to see the new seven story charter school to find out why it was so popular in the Parkchester area. 
  Chancellor Carranza was greeted by the CEO of the Excellence Charter School group Dr. Charlene Reid who took him on a tour of the charter school. I was able to go on the tour with Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid. The school is seven stories tall with grades Kindergarten through eighth grade in the building. We first visited a kindergarten class where the students were sitting on the floor eagerly listening to the teacher. 
We then went up to the seventh floor to see some older children in different rooms. There was a music class with so many different instruments, a computer class, where I was also told that each student receives their own lap top computer. As we went down floor by floor we visited various different classes in rooms that you might see in most public schools if it was possible. It appeared that Dr. Reid was showing off her school to public schools Chancellor Carranza. I felt that I was in one of the few New York City schools that was making the grade, because as a citywide parent leader I saw to many schools that were performing below the standards.
 In a charter school children have to apply to the school, and if more children apply than seats available there are rules to determine which children will be admitted first. A lottery is then held for the remaining seats available, and a wait list is set up should any children move away or decide to attend another school. I was told that the Excellence Charter School in Parkchester has a wait list of close to one thousand applicants. Dr. Reid said that for the new building the charter school group this school is in was able to issue bonds for the thirty million dollars needed to build the seven story building.  
  After the tour was completed Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid went into an office for a private discussion. The chancellor came out to say that he was looking to create a relationship between the public schools and charter schools in the city. He then took questions from those of us who remained. Some questions asked about the admission policy to this charter school, what resources charter schools receive as compared to public schools, and how charter schools differ from public schools. Already knowing the answers to those questions, I asked Chancellor Carranza about the poor performance of Bronx public schools, pointing out local public schools which are not performing as well as this charter school.
 Chancellor Carranza admitted that Bronx public schools were not doing as well as he and the mayor would like, but that he was new on the job, he would have to look at each individual school, and to give him some time. I replied those were almost the exact  words I heard from Chancellor Joel Klein over fifteen years ago. I then said parents want to know why their children are not getting the education they are suppose to get, and that could be a reason that the Bronx Charter School For Excellence was so popular in the Parkchester and surrounding area. 
Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid.
Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid visiting a kindergarten classroom.
Chancellor Carranza with some Honor Roll students in front of the Honor Roll board.
An outside look of the seven story Bronx Charter School for Excellence located at 1960 Benedict Avenue.