January 7, 2009


The Congo 2009 - Former East Harlem Cristo Rey New York High School teacher, Dawn Hurley, is working with women in the Congo and whose story you need to know. As we start the New Year, please consider them in your gracious giving.

Dawn Hurley and the women of Shona CraftsThe war in Congo has been described as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the world today. In the past decade 5 million people have died as a result of this war. Each day the war continues to escalate and spiral out of control, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. But there are ways that we can touch the lives of people living in the midst of this chaos. Here is one small but real way to make a difference in Congo.

"Shona: Crafts from Congo" is a small sewing group for handicapped women in Eastern Congo. These women live at the heart of the current fighting, and work in a culture that teaches handicapped people to beg in the streets. The goal of Shona is empowerment. One stitch at a time, these handicapped women are standing on their own, providing for themselves and their families through the work of their own hands. Shona products are available online at www.shonacongo.com This is fair trade in its truest sense. By purchasing from Shona you are purchasing directly from the craftswomen themselves. And this is hope. Though the war in Congo continues to rage, these women are fighting for a better way of life. By purchasing their products, you are supporting their claim to a better world.

Posted by Jose at 4:11 AM

February 18, 2007

Parishioners Hold Service Anyway

East Harlem, February 18, 2007. Parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church held a service Sunday morning without the assistance of any parish priests. The parishioners, led by 5 of the 6 women arrested on February 12, 2007, wanted to send the message to all who would listen that their church is still alive, even if the doors are closed.

Photo of Parish Leader, Carmen Villegas addressing the PressCarmen Villegas led the parishioners through the service, which the group were careful not to call a mass. Ms. Villegas spoke of having faith and about the group's belief that with faith the doors of the church would open again. She also mentioned her belief that they were being persecuted by a very uncaring bishop of the church. And they exalted in their persecution.

The assembled members of Our Lady Queen of Angels parish, braved the cold, outside of their usual place of worship and thank God for all He has done in the past, present and future. Included were some of the older Italian parishioner going back 60 years, Puerto Rican, Dominican and the new Mexican parishioners.

Various church and community leaders spoke before and after the "service". Ms. Villegas touched upon the notion that dealing with parishioners with hired security and using what they called "gestapo" tactics were not in keeping with being a Christian. She also mentioned her awareness in reading about the Cardinals past that he is vindictive toward all who would challenge him. More in keeping with a man of power, of the world, than with a Christian.

Ms. Villegas referred to a recent Catholic New York article which potrayed those who were arrested as "INDIVIDUALS". As if the parish just laid down and died, and individual troublemakers came in to disrupt the church. She was very angry at the churches blatant covering up (lying) of the parishes reaction to the closing and of being called "individuals" as oppose to "the parishioners".

Ms. Carmen Villegas also explained that the mornings' service would not be lead by a priest. "All priest have been scared away by the threat of retribution from a Cardinal who makes good on such promises", explained Ms. Villegas.

East Harlem's City Council Member, Mellisa Mark-Viverito, told the group that she had written to the Cardinal about her disappoint with the way the Cardinal handled the church closing. She asked that the Cardinal meet with the parishioners in an effort to mediate the situation and in hopes of keeping the church open.

Photo parishioners, beseaching Cardinal Egan to keep their beloved church open.After the end of the "service", Ms. Carmen Villegas, introduced the other four ladies who had been arrested on February 12, 2007. She also introduced a lawyer who will help the group with their fight to keep the church open. The group plans to form a 501(C)3 in an effort to take over management of the church.

It was both a glorious and sad thing to see parishioners without a church building. Glorious in that the church (the people) continue as a parish. As all good Catholics are taught, "the church consist of the people, and not the buildings". So it was that parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish came together to celebrate a service. It was weird being in a Catholic Service without a priest and sad that not one priest dared go against the Cardinal to offer the parishioners mass and solace. Seems almost everyone has abandoned this parish.

Yet the parishioners were happy. They praise God for their persecution and for his future help in this matter. Most were still talking about approaching the Cardinal with offers of taking over the church buildings. Although most were deeply angered and hurt, they choose not to make this a time to bash the Cardinal, but to reach out to him. To ask to meet with him, for him to come to them. They were very hurt about the sign which read that the church would be closed due to the "emotional climate". Yes, they were emotional in staying in the church, because love of their parish drove them to action. The church of "Social Justice" should have some compassion for it's parishioners.

No matter how hard we look, we will never see Jesus in the way this was handled. This writer and fellow Christian beseeches the Cardinal to reach out to this hurting parish. Even if the church is to remain closed, reach out to this your hurting people. Comfort them.

Again, this could have been handled in a much better and different way. But we are all human. And being Christian, we must at some point forgive. The Gospel encourages us to pray for our enemies. So this writer asked that we all pray for Cardinal Egan, that he may have the grace to learn from this experience and handle future closings with heart and with love. God Bless Cardinal Egan, Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish and our community of East Harlem.

Posted by Jose at 12:33 PM

February 13, 2007

Community Catholics Are Furious!!!

East Harlem - February 13, 2007. After a night which featured the arrest of 6 parishioners, East Harlem Catholics are furious at Cardinal Egan. The arrest were made after parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish refused to leave the church. They had vowed to stay in an attempt to keep the church from being permanently closed.

Photo of two signs posted on the church doors.The Cardinal has decided to close the church due to its "shrinking enrollment". But many disagree with the closings and with his methods. One resident who asked not to be identified fumed "Why doesn't he come and move us out himself?, He has to have the police do his dirty work. He is Cardinal enough to close the church, but not man enough to come and do it himself." It is true that the Cardinal has been accuse of being distant/detached from parishioners during the closing process.

It was an ugly scene when parishioners were physically removed from the church. It is not what one ever expects to see at a catholic church. Political prisoners and illegal immigrants have sanctuary within the church, but current parishioners have "no where to lay their heads". There is something truly sad about parishioners being denied the opportunity to worship where they have worshiped all their lives. All because of money. Parishioners felt sad that economics is the real driving issue behind the closing of an institution dedicated to serving the poor.

These same parishioners were outraged that new churches will be created for those of higher means who have moved just outside the city. Bonifacio Rivera, a local community resident, asked "Is this not the reverse of the church's mission? Is the church now no different than developers who provide no housing for the poor and middle class, but create abundant housing for those with the most options in life? And what about all that parishioners have done and contributed over the decades to keep and maintain their parishes? Don't they in some measure own some part of their parishes too? Will the Cardinal compensate them for their efforts?"

Other East Harlem Catholics are left asking, "What has the Cardinal sacrificed? Has he fired his driver and cook and left his fine residence so that others will not loose their community churches? Jesus would not have lived in such a palatial manner, and He would not have abandoned a parish, his flock."

Parishioners and community residents are baffled at the Cardinals unchristian tactics, hiring private security to physically remove residents from Our Lady Queen of Angels Church. "Why didn't he come himself and speak to us, or help to celebrate the last mass at the church? Why hide behind the security firm and the local police? They ask. They felt hurt and abandoned.

The Cardinal may have had to close the current batch of parishes on his hit list, but many are surprised by the coldness of it all. Definitely not the Christian response many were expecting. Seems more worldly than anything else. It is exactly what one would expect from a non-caring CEO throwing workers out of a closed factory, but not a son of the church dealing with his flock.

Recommendations For New York City Catholics
Since the Archdiocese can not be trusted to not close your parish and since that same entity does own and control all local churches/parishes (you could be next), then Catholics should do the following:

1) Cut your strings to the Archdiocese. Continue to meet as a parish, the Archdiocese has no right to tell a group of Catholics when and where to meet and what they are to call themselves. Abandon the Cardinal. He has already abandoned you.

2) Stop contributing to the Cardinal's Appeal and raise money for your group instead. Sooner or later you will need it. If the Cardinal needs money, let him sell his residence.

3) Find, rent, own your own building. The the Cardinal can close what he controls, but he won't be able to close you down. Remember you are the church, not the building. He is the Cardinal of nothing without you.

4) And if possible show your displeasure at St. Patrick's Cathedral during a mass given by the Cardinal. If nothing else, he should be made to think twice for betraying the people, the church and treating them with such disdain. Remember, he could have handles this a lot better, in a different way. He could have reached out to a hurting parish. Instead, he hides downtown.

5) At the very least, ask the Cardinal to change his lifestyle. What is he giving up? He is asking you to give up your parish, while he still lives very well. Not a very biblical situation.

6) If you are really upset, join another church, there are plenty of Christian and Catholic but non-Roman Catholic churches where you will be most welcomed and will never have to fear being kicked out after decades of dedication and service.

7) Pray for guidance.

It may seem extreme, but the Cardinal's action were too. He will find that he is NO LONGER WELCOMED in East Harlem. If he never comes here again, it will be too soon.

Note: Our Lady Queen of Angels parishioners will attempt to attend mass at the church February 18, 2007. They will hold services outside if forced too. The Mass is scheduled to begin at 9:45 AM. Be there to support the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels. They are not about to let this go away nicely. Join them.


Update: February 27, 2007. Yesterday, St. Vilnius was closed in a most sneaky and under handed way. Mr. Egan called St. Vilnius 's pastor to a meeting with him. All the while, he had his gestapo henchmen, change the locks at St. Vilnius Church. It is quite evident that this Cardinal does not care to engage his flock. Instead he has decided they could not be trusted with his judgments and has plowed through all human concern to get his way.

He has left a trail of carnage, hurt and hate in his wake. The Cardinal has decided not to follow in The Way and deal with issues like any other secular CEO. Though even a secular CEO, would have dealt with the church closings with more sensitivity. But the Cardinal has chosen to be more asinine than Christ like. So be it, so he will be judged. Not a tear will be shed for him upon his death by most Catholics. And he will be judged by the perfect Judge who will treat him as he has treated others. Cardinal Egan is not worthy of his title. We all look forward to his retirement. And if he is never seen again it would be too soon. He is more Harkonnen than human.

Stop Begging and Pleading
Catholics have to stop "begging" this man to keep him from closing the churches. They must extract a public political price to keep the Cardinal (it's a shame to use such a good title on him) from closing other churches and to make him think twice in the future. Appeals will not work with this man with a heart of stone. So stop begging. It is beneath your own human dignity. Cardinal Egan only mocks your pleas with complaints of your being too "emotional". He does not get it. This is about doing things his way and not His Way.

Webmaster's Note:
This article presents one point of view. The Archdiocese is free to send a rebuttal which will be published on this site. Views expressed are the individual writer's views and not necessarily the views of the webmaster. Free Speech lives on at East Harlem.com

Posted by muaddib at 11:38 AM

July 5, 2004

St. Cecilia's Parish Website

The Saint Cecilia Parish web site has gained new functionality and hopefully more visitor participation through the addition of a news section, discussion section and photo gallery.

The Saint Cecilia Parish web site (www.saint-cecilia-parish.org) has been recently updated.

The web site now contains a news section, much like this one found at the East Harlem.com site. In addition the website also contains a discussion forum and a photo gallery. "It's time to give the site more functionality" said webmater Jose B. Rivera. "There is so much history which I hope to capture and that needs to be captured digitally, in hope of preserving it", added Mr. Rivera

Mr. Rivera hopes that more visitors will mean more data for the web site. Well dear reader it's up to you. Visit the site and don't forget to leave an entry in the guestbook. JBR

Posted by Jose at 4:02 AM

February 13, 2004

Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary Needs Your Help

A call for help from the principal of Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary.

February 13, 2004

Dear Friend:

I am writing to you because my students and I believe in miracles.

Our school is Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School, an inner-city Catholic elementary school which serves students in grades Pre-K through 8. 59.4% of our students are Afro-American, 39.4% are Latino and 1.2% are Asian. 100% are eligible for free lunch. We are located in East Harlem on Pleasant Avenue between 119th and 120th Streets. Our building was originally a settlement house for immigrant Italian orphans before being used for education.

Our students, parents and staff are seeking a miracle for the following reason: On January 22, 2004, we learned that the Archdiocese of New York was closing our school because of our financial hardship. After an impassioned plea by the parents, the Archdiocese, on February 9, agreed to consider a plan to save the school and on February 12, we learned that if we raised $125,000 by March 5, our school would remain open.

This letter is part of an all-out effort to accomplish this goal. Why, when you have so many good causes brought to your attention, should you consider helping Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School? The first and most important reason is the children. They are a gutsy group of New York City children who have a great deal to offer and will achieve so much with the solid education that they are receiving at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary.

The second reason is that we are a school "on the rise." As an achiever yourself, I think you can relate to this. During the year and a half that I have been Principal of Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary, programs have been implemented in accelerated reading, mathematics achievement and technology integration. We have instituted a new student leadership program called Future Posssibilities, a Museum program in conjunction with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and VITAL, a health program for early childhood students. A grant is funding a three-year free after-school program in the performing and visual arts. Another grant funded the renovation of several student restrooms and another grant proposal has been accepted for additional renovation. A donor funded a full-time school librarian and provided new computers and printers for our students. So you see, we are "on the move" and some people already believe in us.

Please consider helping us with a donation. Not only will it contribute to keeping our school open but it will "buy" us time to raise our enrollment for next year. Our March 5 deadline to raise $125,000 is daunting, but as I said at the beginning, my students and I believe in miracles. Maybe you will be part of one.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.


Suzanne Kaszynski

If you would like additional information, would like to visit or believe you can help us, please call me at 1-212-876-7555 or 1-212-876-7592. Our fax number is 1-212-876-0152. Our email address is mtcarmelholyrosary@yahoo.com

If you can help us with a donation, please send to:

Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School
371 Pleasant Avenue
New York, NY 10035

Thank you!

Note: The New York Archdiocese has given Mt. Carmel/Holy Rosary a one year extension. Great work by the school principal and parents. Not to mention the donations that made it all possible. Congratulations.

The research in effective school change tells us that in order for a school to flourish, it must develop a reputation of academic excellence and parental involvement, establish an identity in the community and have programs and opportunities that make it a viable, enjoyable place of learning. Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary is already doing this. You are welcome to visit us and take a look.

Posted by Jose at 4:31 PM

November 22, 1998

Cardinal Visits El Barrio

November 22, 1998 East Harlem East Harlemites received a rare treat, as his Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, visited St. Cecilia's Church to help celebrate the church's 125th anniversary.

Picture of Cardinal O'Connor entering St. Cecilia's Church and greeting parishioners. Many came up to an hour early to obtain choice seating. And St. Cecilia's Pastor Fr. James Brennan, C.Ss.R, never looked so excited. Fr. Brennan waited outside the church for the Cardinal to arrive. Cardinal O'Connor did arrive in a small common black car. You'd expect the Cardinal to be surrounded by motorcycle cops, but no, he came only with his driver, who also served as his personal alter assistant.

Old Friends
Many parishioners, old, new, from near and far came to help celebrate this great anniversary. This writer (an old St. Cecilia School Alumni) saw many former teachers and school mates. It seemed that the past was exploding into the present. It was a real thrill. It's almost as if former teachers were not real, were phantoms, and had now decided to rock the senses with a ghostly visit. They were real after all! You could see, touch and hug them all. They still exist! How great it was to see them! My heroes of old, in the flesh.

Picture of Cardinal O'Connor with St. Cecilia's Church Pastor, Fr. James Brennan and with sculptor Eileen BarryBack to the Cardinal, he was very funny. Cardinal O'Connor could have had a calling as a comedian. He took every opportunity to crack a joke. And they were funny side liners. He was also comical when reading off some of St. Cecilia's accomplishment and history to the crowd. He would stop and say..' It says here that... " Not trying to convince the crowd that he knew it all. Because plainly he did not. So instead of faking it, he made it humorous.

St. Cecilia's (much to Fr. Brennan's credit) prepared extremely well for this event. The church looked fantastic and the choir sounded like angels singing. They dressed well too.

Due to the large crowd present, the balcony's were opened to allow seating there. It is not often that the balcony's are opened at St. Cecilia's. This writer has not been on the balcony since 1966. If you ever visit the church, it's a great place to take pictures.

Picture of Cardinal O'Connor speaking to those gathered for the Mass CelebrationPicture of T-Shirts on sale at 212-534-1350, T-Shirts celebrate the 125th Anniversay of St. Cecilia's ChurchThe mass did not last too long and there was a virtual feast (reception) after the mass. It was a great event. Never have this church looked so happy and excited. It was a calm happiness. And it was a great time. Congratulations St. Cecilia's on your 125th Anniversary!!.

Oh, there is still time to get into the celebration, St. Cecilia's still has some celebration T-Shirts, and other items to sell. Call the rectory at 212-534-7912 for further information.

Posted by Jose at 1:55 AM