Taking part in the Way of the Cross offers comfort in sorrow at St. Peter’s

By 
David Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
Apr. 24, 2014

Stations of the Cross: On Good Friday, members of St.Peter’s Parish Via Sacra carried the Cross around the neighborhood to the sites where community members died as a result of acts of violence.                      			                    Photo by David EisenstadterStations of the Cross: On Good Friday, members of St.Peter’s Parish Via Sacra carried the Cross around the neighborhood to the sites where community members died as a result of acts of violence. Photo by David Eisenstadter

Luisa Tavares fought back tears as she stood at the site of her son’s death reading the Fourth Station of the Cross, the one in which Jesus meets his mother on the way to his death on Calvary. But before Tavares began, Father Richard Conway told those assembled at Navillus Terrace that they were there to remember Junior DaVeiga and Andrew Tavares, two victims of violence in that very spot.

“It was an honor to do it but it was also very hurtful,” Tavares said after her reading. “At the same time, I ask the Lord to carry the pain for me instead of me carrying it. … I’m a human, and it hurts, it really hurts.”

Tavares and about 75 of her fellow parishioners at St. Peter’s Parish in Dorchester took to the streets last week as they do every year on Good Friday. They read the 14 Stations of the Cross, alternating in English and Cape Verdean, as they came to intersections in the neighborhood where violence has taken one or more lives.

The Way of the Cross, or La Via Sacra in Cape Verdean Portuguese, exists in the Roman Catholic tradition as a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, echoing the journey Jesus was said to have made while carrying the cross to his execution.

Reading the Station did relieve some of the pain, Tavares says. While Andrew Tavares is gone, others who remain must speak up for him, she said. “By my doing this, it shows the community, especially the young kids, that they need to come together,” she added.

Father Conway said that the Way of the Cross was already active when he came to the parish years ago. “We’ve just unfortunately added names each year, mostly of young people who have died by violence,” he said. The tradition offers prayers to the people who have died and also shows the community at large that there are people trying to make it a better neighborhood. “I was amazed at the number of people on the list that we were praying for,” Conway said of his first time performing the ritual.

More than 30 names were in Conway’s hands as he guided parishioners around the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood. For this year, there was only one name added, that of a girl who was struck by a drunk driver on the way home from school. “Things are better,” the priest said, while adding that he does not know how long it will be before the next wave of violence overtakes the community.

Standing beside Conway for most of the journey was Boston Police Captain Richard Sexton. He and a police detail helped direct traffic as parishioners make their way to the different street corners to do their readings. Sexton says that the police have a good relationship with the clergy in the area, but that the ceremony is also meaningful for him, noting that this year marked his third or fourth time participating.
“This makes it real as to the victims that have suffered from violence in the neighborhood,” Sexton says. “Hopefully this will have some effect and prevent the next one from happening.

Newly elected state representative for the fifth Suffolk district Evandro Carvalho joins the event and read the Tenth Station. Education is the most important way to curb violence in the community followed by community policing, he said. “People in our neighborhood unfortunately are dropping out of school and not getting the proper quality education that they need,” he added. “They end up being in the system.”

Many of the later Stations were read by younger community members. Thirteen-year-old Goncalo Barros said the tradition attempts to comfort through prayer those who have died through violence. “I think this can be helped if everyone is at peace with each other and gets along with each other,” he said.

Giobed Rivera, 12, Antonio Andrade, 14, and Nilson DePina, 15, also read Stations. All share last names with those on the list who have died from violence. Walking around to remember those who have passed away brings people together, said DePina. Violence needs to stop, he said, but he added that this is a good tradition. “I felt great that I had the chance to read a Station.”