Hurtful words that defame our community

Disparaging words used to describe the Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods on the website of the Campaign for Catholic Schools (CCS) are drawing outrage from some local residents.

As part of an online pitch seeking philanthropic support for the fledgling Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, the Archdiocesan-sponsored CCS describes the school in these terms: “Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy is located in the most violent and poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Boston.”

Violent? Poverty-stricken? Is that a fair and accurate description of these former parish school buildings that remain adjacent to St. Gregory’s, St. Mark’s, St. Ann’s, Blessed Mother Theresa and St. Angela’s in Mattapan? And if these benefactors really think of us and our neighborhoods that way- well, would you send your children there?
The downtown crowd is way off base, and while it does perhaps reveal some of the jargon they use to describe us and our kids in their board rooms and country clubs, the description is disrespectful, scornful, even hateful.

A school parent, Melissa Graham of Sylvester Road, said she came across the defamatory description of our neighborhood when she visited the website this week, seeking a summer reading list for her son. Calling it an “insensitive description of our community,” Graham said in a letter to the CCS: “As a member of the St. Ann Neponset community with a child at the former St. Ann School, I am shocked and dismayed to have found this description of our community on your website. We DO NOT live in a violent section of Boston nor are we poverty-stricken. You clearly have a warped vision of those you are attempting to assist. If you would like to meet with parents of the school children here, please let me know and I would be glad to arrange it.
With much sadness, sincerely, Melissa J. Graham.”

Graham said she had contacted St. Ann pastor Fr. Sean Connor, and in an email to her, he wrote: “I did call the Chancellor’s office and explained the obvious problems with choice of language. I also explained that I was sure that they did not intend to cause offense to anyone, but in fact they had. Regardless of the choice of language for this neighborhood and parish I would make the same complaint if you were the families of St. Peter parish and I was their Pastor.

“They assure that the language is being taken down and rewritten, I suggested that they consult with other [sic] before reposting new language to assure both sensitivity to the good people of Dorchester and prudence.”

As of noontime on Wednesday, the language remained posted at The Campaign for Catholic Schools website. (See

The CSC is chaired by Boston philanthropist Jack Connors, who says on the site, “ Catholic schools in Dorchester/Mattapan have educated scores of leaders who today are contributing to the Commonwealth across many walks of life. We are committed to ensuring that today’s families in Dorchester/Mattapan have more opportunity to achieve greater heights because of the outstanding Catholic education they will receive here in the Archdiocese of Boston.”

Connors and his campaign members deserve much credit for their efforts to bolster a previously moribund group of parochial schools in our community. But it is jarring to learn of the defamatory way our neighborhoods are depicted. In the effort to promote a good cause, the Campaign for Catholic Schools has stumbled badly.