life from the perspective of a social justice, public health advocate in the Bronx

Martin Luther King, Jr., St. Martin de Porres and St. Francis: Practicing the ways of nonviolence

January 20, 2014
It felt so good today to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with the St. Martin de Porres League at Immaculate Conception Church, a Capuchin Franciscan parish in the Bronx.   St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of racial justice, connecting the goal of racial justice back to Catholic social justice teaching and the Franciscan understanding of all humans as equal and deserving of equitable treatment. 

We started off singing the National Black Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," followed by a medley of scripture, music, poetry, girls doing liturgical dance, and boys reciting from memory powerful words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



We then heard words from guest speaker Tiffani Blake from The College of New Rochelle, who "refused to let the 'hood define or determine [her] outcome."  Tiffani spoke of the strides which have been made in fulfilling Dr. King's dream, but there is still a need to begin again. People of color still suffer from issues like stop & frisk, "driving while black," being followed in stores, having methods of payments questioned, inadequate healthcare, and unaffordable tuition. Tiffani reminded everyone that Pope Francis has called us to "faith and love in action."  I am hopeful that we can continue to put our faith into action to make Dr. King's dream a reality. And if we don't know what to do next, let us be reminded that Dr. King once said "faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." 

I think my favorite part of the event was the "City Angels" youth singing "I need you to survive": 

I need you, you need me. 
We're all a part of God's body. 
Stand with me, agree with me. 
We're all a part of God's body. 

It is his will, that every need be supplied. 
You are important to me, I need you to survive. 
...
I pray for you, You pray for me. 
I love you, I need you to survive. 
I won't harm you with words from my mouth. 
I love you, I need you to survive. 
...
It is his will, that every need be supplied. 
You are important to me, I need you to survive



What a Franciscan song!  How true, we all need each other, and we need to work together without harmful words or actions.  And so good to hear the words coming from the youth - our future generation. 

Martin Luther King Jr. was 39 when he died - only a few years younger than St. Francis of Assisi, who died when he was only 44.  (Not to mention Jesus who died when he was ~33!)  While these men died relatively young, they all led immensely purposeful lives and are known as stewards of nonviolence all over the world.  When Martin Luther King Jr. was locked up, he said "I'm in jail because I believe that the law of God is higher than the law of men." We are never too young to cultivate peace in our community. And our generation of youth has so much potential to do so. 

Fr. John LoSasso OFM Cap closed by saying, "You've got to speak the truth - not only speak the truth but be the truth that you speak."  Sounds familiar to the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." 
 

Capuchin Prayer & Service Retreat

December 22, 2013

Saturday was the Winter Solstice & I was fortunate to spend it at a Capuchin Prayer & Service Advent Retreat.  The Capuchin Prayer & Service Days were started in NYC after Hurricane Sandy, when many members of Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries (CYFM) in Garrison, NY wanted to come down to NYC to help out with relief efforts in the Rockaways. The Prayer & Service Days and Weekend Retreats have continued ever since. It’s great to see this ministry of service continue in the true tradition of...


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Re-membering Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. I spent the day at the St. Crispin Friary as the friars and volunteers gave away 425 turkeys and bags of food to community members.  Hungry people lined up outside the church and we gave them tickets, recording their names, to ensure each person only got one. The St. Crispin Friary in many ways feels like an extension of CYFM, but different because they actually serve the poor and needy through the friary & St. Anthony Residence, while CYFM ministers to Catholic famil...


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How do you measure, measure a year?

November 20, 2013


"Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

I have tried to let these two sentences guide my life ever since I first heard them as a teenager at Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries.  On some level I suppose I've always known that it's important for us to live in right relationship with others, and ever since my involvement at CYFM have held my Franciscan roots close to my heart. But I stayed relatively quiet about my faith in many ways for a long time, par...


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Rebuilding God's House with St. Francis

May 13, 2013
Ever since I was part of Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, a Franciscan youth ministry center in Garrison, NY, during high school, I have always thought of the lifestyle of St. Francis an admirable one.  Retreats centered around St. Francis and St. Clare and led by friars and brothers who have devoted their lives to following in the Franciscan path made my times spent at CYFM more than memorable. It's no wonder my CYFM friends alluded to the retreat center as a "heaven on earth." We were ca...
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Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins

March 29, 2013
I'm a fan of Gandhi.  I'm particularly inspired by his famous quote "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" which has been and continues to be the theme of my blog.  However, I was even more impressed recently when I came across his "Seven Deadly Social Sins" on a poster from Sojourners.  I was able to purchase a copy of the poster at The Justice Conference in Philadelphia last month.  These are the traits Gandhi considered to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity: 
  • Wealth...

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Freedom Farm

October 22, 2012

Amber, Fritz, Jyna, Brielle, Denise and I took a trip to Freedom Farm from Friday to Saturday.  This was the second time I’ve visited this farm. Fritz introduced us to a year and a half ago, as he knows Ann and Edgar through his connections with the Mennonite community in NYC.  Edgar had been working in the South Bronx with youth from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, when he and Ann decided to move upstate to Otisville / Middletown, NY, and start Freedom Farm. They wanted to provide ...


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Called to Create

September 24, 2012

I’ve come across a good number of provocative ideas in the past couple weeks that I would like to start digesting here.  Last Sunday, Pastor Guy Wasko at Trinity Grace Church – East Village gave good meaning to the church’s motto, “Joining God in the Renewal of all Things.”  During his sermon, he spoke about how the full Christian story explains fully the Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  This allows for a holistic and encompassing  Christian worldview.  Unfortunately, m...


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Andre's River

August 26, 2012
Here is an epic memoir of Andre Christopher Rivera, a youth who was empowered to create positive change in his community in the Bronx through the guidance and mentorship of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.  His story means so much more than mine because he grew up in the Bronx.  A short film has also been made with part of his story: Andre's River  

Vote for Andre! 
-----------------

My name is Andre Christopher Rivera. I am 19 years old, and I graduated from Lehman High School CLASS OF 2...


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A Culture of Life

August 2, 2012

A pastor named Michael was the guest preacher at Trinity Grace Church-East Village this past Sunday.  He started his sermon off by saying he was going to address the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.”  How is this related to many of us, who so easily brush aside this commandment as irrelevant because we don’t see ourselves as involved in killing?  Michael explained how the root of murder is anger.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, however, anger is not inherently evil. Anger goes ...


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