New York News

St. Helena Church Fire Cleanup To Get Boost From Benefit Concert

World renowned cellist Christine Walevska is the featured performer at the benefit concert. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

PARKCHESTER — Local musicians are combining their talents for a benefit concert to help a Bronx church pay to repair damage caused by a post-Christmas fire in December.

The St. Helena Fire Fundraiser, featuring renowned cellist Christine Walevska, the Bronx Concert Singers and the Children’s Orchestra Society, will take place at the church, 1315 Olmstead Ave. in Parkchester, on Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m.

The Dec. 26 electrical fire significantly damaged the church’s sacristy. Smoke billowed throughout the church, but also into St. Helena’s School and a dormitory housing seminarians from St. Joseph’s Seminary and College.

The concert will have an international flavor in keeping with the multinational feel of the local Parkchester neighborhood, according to Gail Tweedy, a public relations representative who is helping to organize the performance. The Bronx Concert Singers, for example, will sing in French and Swahili, as well as English and Spanish.

The area is also home to large numbers of Dominican, Mexican and Ecuadorian residents, said Father David Powers Sch.P., the pastor of St. Helena Church.

Father Powers is hoping the concert raises between $5,000 and $10,000 that the church can put toward the repairs and the ongoing cleanup.

“We were lucky that the insurance covered most of our costs. They covered about $100,000. But we still have some things to do,” he explained.

No one was injured in the fire, but the church was forced to temporarily move its Masses to another site on church grounds, a 121-year-old structure known as the “Green Building,” for three months.

“We just opened up the church again. We had our first Masses on Ash Wednesday,” said Father Powers, who has been pastor since 2015.

Father David Powers inspects the damage left by the fire in December. (Photos: Bill Miller)

It wasn’t the first time the Green Building, nicknamed because of its color, has been a stand-in for church. Constructed in 1901, it was used for Masses while St. Helena Church was built in the early 1940s.

“The Green Building served us well. But it was great to be back in our church,” Father Powers added.

The entire community is coming together for the concert, as is the music world. When Tweedy put out a request for a piano, the Beethoven Piano Company, located near Carnegie Hall, stepped up and donated a baby grand to the church.

“I was amazed!” she said. “I expected a small upright piano. When I told them they could deliver it to the church through a side door, they said they needed double doors. That is when I learned they donated a baby grand piano.”

St. Helena Church has hosted numerous concerts over the years and has become known as an artistic haven. The Bronx Concert Singers are in residence there. “Music is a very important part of our parish. That’s why the benefit concert means so much to us,” Father Powers said.

For information on the concert, visit: