UPDATE- Report- Fired St. Peter’s Teen Center director to return to work

UPDATE- December 17- 5:00 p.m. The longtime director of the St. Peter's Teen Center on Bowdoin Street will return to his post, the Reporter has learned. Father Jack Ahern, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St Peter's parishes, today told this newspaper: "Catholic Charities called to inform me and others that Paulo De Barros, who has been with the Teen Center for 9 years has been reinstated as director. As you know he was fired a few weeks back and there has been a series of interventions by many within the extended community and parish to bring him back. This is a great day for the Teen Center and the teens and families who use it."
(Developing story)

Previous report- Dec 17, 2009
Parish backs ousted director
of teen center at St. Peter’s

By Gintautas Dumcius
Contributing Reporter
A top Dorchester priest is calling for the head of St. Peter’s Teen Center to be reinstalled amid growing outcry over Paulo De Barros’s abrupt ouster. “The parish is fully behind him, as is the neighborhood,” said Fr. Jack Ahern, who is in charge of the “tri-parish” consisting of St. Peter’s, Holy Family, and Blessed Mother Teresa. “The most important group is the teenagers themselves.”

Catholic Charities of Greater Boston, which is in charge of the center, dismissed the director, De Barros, from his job in late November.
The Bowdoin St. center serves about 200 teens daily with a variety of sports, recreation and educational programs, and provides English language tutoring for recent immigrants from Cape Verde. “It’s a great operation, it’s really a place of opportunity and hope and safety for the kids,” Ahern told the Reporter.

The decision to remove De Barros has drawn protests in the form of pickets by teens throughout the past week and harsh words from state representative Marie St. Fleur, who has said Catholic Charities made the move without community input, and dubbed the process not “very Catholic.”

De Barros is due to meet with Catholic Charities officials on Thursday.

Catholic Charities officials have been meeting with community members, with spokesman Joseph Burnieika coming to a Monday afternoon meeting at the Restaurante Cesaria, which is near the teen center. St. Fleur, who did not respond to a request for comment this week, also attended. Fr. Richard “Doc” Conway attended for Fr. Ahern, but declined to comment on his way out. The meeting was closed to the press.

The meeting followed teens picketing the center. A video posted on a local Cape Verdean website, forcv.com, showed several of them holding signs saying “Teen Center Needs Barros” and chanting “We want De Barros back.”

Exactly why De Barros was fired remains a mystery, publicly. Catholic Charities officials have refused to provide a reason, citing employee confidentiality rules. “If there’s a reason, we don’t know about it,” Ahern s
Catholic Charities officials have stressed that De Barros did not commit any crime or that the firing was for an economic reason.De Barros, who had worked at the center for nine years, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Previous report- Dec 10, 2009-

by Gintautus Dumcius- State Rep. Marie St. Fleur this week blasted Catholic Charities of Greater Boston for firing the head of their St. Peter’s Teen Center, saying the move was made without community input.

Paulo De Barros, director of the center, was dismissed shortly before Thanksgiving, confirmed Joseph Burnieika, spokesman for Catholic Charities.

“There was no crime committed,” Burnieika said. “We really cannot say why he was let go, due to confidentiality and legal reasons. It was not an economic reason. We are committed to keeping the teen center open.”

The Bowdoin St. center serves about 200 teens daily with a variety of sports, recreation and educational programs. It also provides English language tutoring for recent immigrants from Cape Verde. At least 100 teens were expected to turn out at a gathering planned for this week to protest 
De Barros’s firing.

St. Fleur told the Reporter on Tuesday evening that she was “very disappointed in the actions of Catholic Charities.” “I don’t think the way they acted was very Catholic,” said St. Fleur, a Catholic.

 “I don’t think this is the cardinal,” she added, referring to Cardinal Sean O’Malley. She said blame should instead fall on the “management on the ground.”

Burnieika said the decision to let De Barros go was made “with a lot of forethought. One of the things we strive to do in all of the programs is maintain the Catholic teaching and mission, and we will continue to do that,” he said.

Catholic Charities president Tiziana Dearing met with more than 100 teens at the center Monday night to hear their concerns and answer questions, Burnieika said, although she did not comment specifically on why the director was fired.

The teens told Dearing that they wanted him back on the job, Burnieika said.

“What she said at that meeting is still operative today. We have a lot to think about,” Burnieika said. “We agreed to meet again with the teens but we do not have a set date to meet.”

De Barros had worked for the center for nine years.

St. Fleur said she is meeting with Catholic Charities officials this week on the matter.

Earlier this year, Cardinal 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 correspondent Sue Asci contributed to this article.