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Tragedy in the streets

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For too long, picturesque summer days in Dorchester have turned tragic in a hail of gunfire, not only for the victims, but for the young perpetrators of these crimes.

Debbie
Rambo

Sunday, May 23 brought Memorial Day weekend its first summer heat. Temperatures reached the mid-80s in Dorchester by noon and stayed there; bringing out Bostonians of every stripe. The long awaited reprieve from a historically harsh winter and a tepid spring had finally come. The city bustled with activity all day; neighbors talked, shoppers shopped, and children were at play.

Under the watchful eyes of his mother and grandparents, seven year old Divan Silva rode his bicycle down Bowdoin Street towards a nearby corner store where a crisp, cold bottle of water awaited the youngster's purchase.

While Divan rode, a gunman across the street opened fire. One shot grazed a 20 year old.

Another hit Divan.

Thankfully, Divan Silva has since been released from the hospital, and is recovering well.

A few days later, a community meeting was held just a block away from where Silva was struck by the stray bullet, at our Teen Center at St. Peters. Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans attended along with many concerned residents. All in attendance intimated that the availability of guns in the neighborhood is a serious issue, and that increased trust between the community and police is needed to both avoid crimes like these and bring those responsible to justice.

Two weeks later, Divan Silva's 16 year old cousin Jonathan Dos Santos was also the victim of gun violence. Jonathan was not as fortunate as Divan; he passed away from his injuries.

While Police believe that this was an entirely separate incident, similarities between the two shootings are disheartening. The Dorchester teen was also shot off of his bicycle in broad daylight. And even more troubling, both crimes are believed to have been committed by teenagers.

Jonathan Dos Santos had been an exemplary young member of the Dorchester community. He came from a very supportive home, studying hard in school, and participating in a number of sports. Jonathan and his family worked hard to keep him clear of gangs. It is feared that his refusal to join may have motivated the ambush.

According to a Boston Globe report, a few weeks before his killing, Jonathan had told his basketball coach that he was being so aggressively pressured to join a gang that he was afraid to go to school, where members might see him.

For too long, picturesque summer days in Dorchester have turned tragic in a hail of gunfire, not only for the victims, but for the young perpetrators of these crimes. While one teenager has died too young, two others are now in police custody, their lives forever altered for the worse.

We at Catholic Charites view these incidents with heavy hearts, but are emboldened to expand our work within the Dorchester youth community. The government can only do so much to curb the violence in our streets. Children in these neighborhoods are often driven to a life of crime by a sense of desperation, the feeling that they have no other way to provide for themselves or their families. The Teen Center at St. Peter's has had a positive impact on many young lives, and we strive to continue to provide more young people with the knowledge and support system needed to make something more of their lives. We hope to be able to do more in our community and dissuade our young people from such a fatalistic mentality.

DEBORAH KINCADE RAMBO IS PRESIDENT OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORK OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES, GO TO WWW.CCAB.ORG.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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