NEW YORK — The influence of the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province was cited recently by a South Bronx native who for 15 years has been directing a community organizing group that works on social and environmental issues.
In an interview titled “Justice for the South Bronx” in Christian Centurymagazine, Alexie Torres-Fleming, who founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in 1994, describes the Franciscan spirituality she learned as a young parishioner at Holy Cross Church in the 1970s and the volunteer work she did as a young adult with the friars. She recalls, in the July 28, 2009 issue, participating in anti-drug marches organized by the friars to draw attention to neighborhood problems. She describes one November event that changed her attitude.
Torres-Fleming, whose parents emigrated from Puerto Rico, returned to the Bronx after having worked at various corporate jobs in Manhattan where, she said, she “had made good money for her age.” Her goal is to restore the Bronx River area by guiding “young people and residents to be a voice for peace and justice by taking action in our communities.”
Student friar Daniel Horan, OFM, recently notified the Province’s Communications Office about the article that he said “reflects very well on the friars.” The young activist “explicitly credits the Franciscans at Holy Cross in the Bronx as the source of her inspiration for her work.”
Though Torres-Fleming does not mention specific friars by name, she described their work and specifically recalled a pastor needing to wear a bulletproof vest because of the attention that he had drawn.
Among the friars who served as pastor at Holy Cross, a parish that the Province staffed for nearly 90 years, areGiles Bello, OFM, appointed in 1973; Charles Finnegan, OFM, in 1975; Joseph Hertel, OFM, 1976; Leonard Perotti, OFM,1985; Robert Gonzalez, OFM, 1988; and Michael Tyson, OFM, who served from 1988 to 1996.
Michael, a member of the board of directors of Youth Ministry for Peace and Justice, as well as Brian Jordan, OFM, were active in rallying against drugs, according to Franciscan historian Dominic Monti, OFM.
“Alexie was the one who masterminded our anti-drug march after the church was burned,” Michael said, adding with a smile, “I am so impressed with Alexie that I’ve told her that if interesting her in peace and justice was the only good thing I’ve done in this life, I am guaranteed entrance into heaven.”
Brian said, “I know Alexie very well. She was the youth group coordinator when I was at Holy Cross in the mid-1980s.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is HNP director of communications.