Rapping priest performs at parish center

FR. STAN FORTUNA, a rapping priest, will perform this Sunday, Aug. 24, at the parish center at St. Peter Catholic Church. Contributed photo

A free barbecue and concert, featuring a rapping priest from New York, is set for this Sunday, Aug. 24 starting at 3 p.m. at the parish center at St. Peter Catholic Church.

“Just think of the rosary put to hip hop. Wind your mind around that,” said Nicole Pashek, one of the organizers of the event. “I’m excited about it.”

Fr. Stan Fortuna, a hoodie-wearing Franciscan priest with a YouTube channel, was a jazz musician before becoming a priest, and had put out a number of CDs. Now, he serves the poor in the South Bronx and around the world, in places like Uganda and Poland.

“I just think it’s great for kids to kind of see someone who’s taken the faith in a different way and who’s really trying to use it to help,” Pashek said.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “How many times do you have people from New York come and play in The Dalles?”

He performs in numerous genres, from jazz to hip hop to pop.

The event starts off with a free barbecue on the lawn outside the parish center, and canopies will be provided for shade. The menu includes sloppy joes, chicken and salads, said Pashek. The St. Peter Hospitality Committee she sits on has been working on the event for six months.

After the barbecue, guests will move inside to the air-conditioned Parish Center for the concert. Organizers are hoping for at least 200 attendees, Pashek said. “This is our leap in faith,” she said.

“This would be especially good for disenfranchised youth, but it’s for all family,” Pashek said.

Prior to his conversion, Fr. Stan studied with the legendary “father of improvisational jazz,” Lennis Trestano and toured in various venues, including the Lincoln Center.

He is a founding member of an order of Franciscan friars in New York who adhere to an ascetic lifestyle living in the heart of the South Bronx, ministering to the poverty-stricken.

Fr. Stan had been involved with community development and various social programs in the South Bronx for over 20 years, since the religious order was started in 1987.

That same year, Fr. Stan established his non-profit company, Francesco Productions (www.frances

coproductions.com), mixing music and message.

He has appeared before both Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI and has been featured in both the Catholic and secular press, including The New York Times and Bass Guitar Magazine.

A lengthy 1992 New York Times article on the Franciscan order said Fr. Stan played bass for a living but “he felt an emptiness in that existence and found himself drawn closer to the church. He began to skip band practice for Bible classes, and on his own time he would seek out the homeless and elderly who lived near his cold-water flat in Getty Square in Yonkers.”

“Helping people put the taste in my mouth,” he said in the Times article. “But I was still hungry. I wanted more and I had the sense there is more.”

He then went on to the priesthood.

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