Ousted director of St. Peter Center returning to post

Catholic Charities officials have reversed course and re-hired the longtime director of the St. Peter’s Teen Center on Bowdoin Street.
Paulo De Barros, who has been with the center for nine years, will be returning sometime in early January. He was fired in late November, which caused his supporters to flood the Catholic Charities office with protests.

Joseph Burnieika, vice president for external affairs at Catholic Charities, told the Reporter that re-hiring was in “everybody’s best interest.We basically felt that Paulo’s effectiveness, particularly with the teens, makes it worthwhile to bring him back,” Burnieika said.
Roughly 200 teens are served daily by the center, which provides with a variety of sports, recreation and educational programs, along with English language tutoring for recent immigrants from Cape Verde.

Burnieika added: “We talked with political leaders, community, parish leaders, teens, and we just felt this was the best way to do it. We also learned a lot over the last couple of weeks. We’ve opened up a line of communication with those folks that we didn’t have for whatever reason. That’ll help us in the future, too. The other thing that came out of this was that we know we’re doing a good job up there.”

The outcry over the ouster came from nearly all corners: elected officials, parish priests, and the teens who use the center and picketed in support of De Barros.

“They listened to the staff, they listened to the kids, they listened to the neighborhood,” said Fr. Jack Ahern, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Peter’s parishes. Ahern had joined others, including state Rep. Marie St. Fleur (D-Uphams Corner), in support of De Barros, and had called for his re-instatement.

Catholic Charities officials have said that De Barros did not commit any crime, but have declined to provide further details, citing employee confidentiality rules.

“We’ll continue to deal with his employment issues,” Burnieika said. “It was never, as I’ve been saying, a criminal issue. We had some employment issues with Paulo that we felt that we needed to deal with.” For his part, De Barros has stayed silent, declining to return phone calls seeking comment.

The teen center is currently closed for vacation.

Earlier this year, Cardinal Sean O’Malley had blessed the center after it had undergone $4 million in renovations, including a new library, classrooms, kitchen, dance studio and gym.

Reporter Publisher Ed Forry contributed to this report.