Despite recent controversy, Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishioners are standing by their pastor.
In a report on Sunday, July 31, it was made public that Frank Borzellieri, the former principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, had written for several racist publications as a member of a white supremacist group called American Renaissance prior to his hiring as school principal in 2009.
The release of the information began to spread fast and on Tuesday, August 2, Borzellieri was relieved of his duties as head of the ethnically diverse elementary school. Under fire was the church’s pastor Fr. Eric Rapaglia, who had hired Borzellieri.
Claiming he was unaware of Borzellieri’s past writings, Rapaglia dismissed him and apologized to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel community through a statement on the parish’s website.
“I realize that many of you are confused and, in some cases, angry in response to the Frank Borzellieri situation,” said Rapaglia in his statement. “Let me begin by stating my fundamental belief that racism is evil…I am deeply sorry for the pain that has been caused, among our faith, family and beyond, by these recent events.”
Prior to Mount Carmel, Rapaglia and Borzellieri worked together at St. Barnabas High School, while Rapaglia was a priest and Borzellieri was a teacher.
Rapaglia said the hiring of Borzellieri as Mount Carmel’s principal was based on the recommendations of a search committee that “represented the full diversity of the school population and included teachers and parents.”
Parishioners in the Belmont community were indeed upset and confused at Rapaglia’s possible connection to Borzellieri. Ultimately, they had faith that their pastor, who has done much for the community, was wrongfully connected to the situation.
Frank Franz, president of the Belmont Business Improvement District, tirelessly works with Rapaglia year-round with church, school and community events. When the story first broke, he was utterly disappointed that Rapaglia was tied to Borzellieri’s past.
“Everybody was actually shocked when the news came out. We never saw any indication of this with Frank (Borzellieri),” Franz said. “What bothered me is that the story said Fr. Rapaglia brought him to the school. That never happened. He applied for the job and was well qualified. Fr. Rapaglia has made wonderful changes for the parish, school and community. He brought nothing but great when it was down.”
Rapaglia came to Our Lady of Mount Carmel the year before Borzellieri was hired as principal. In three years, Franz said Rapaglia demonstrated the highest degree of spiritualism for the community.
The right move was made by the Archdiocese of New York and Rapaglia in firing Borzellieri, Franz said, but the Mount Carmel community would really struggle if they were to lose Rapaglia.
“He does wonders for this community. He even learned how to speak Spanish when he came here,” Franz said. “It would be a shame if we were to ever lose him over something like this when a lot of people outside of the community do not realize what he does for everybody. When he came here, he brought the whole community up.”