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Priest Calls for Peace After Tragic Gonzales and PoSGH Shootings

Photo courtesy: St Joseph RC Church

Rosary/Gonzales parish priest Fr Matthew d’Hereaux is saddened by the shooting which happened in Gonzales and at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) on Sunday, June 2. He was in the community during the time of the shootings and heard the gunshots.

In an interview with The Catholic News today, Fr d’Hereaux said he regularly goes “on foot” visiting the sick in the community and knew of the young men who were killed “from around”.

“I pass by that schoolyard where they were playing so I’ve seen the fellas around. It is a very sad moment for me personally, but I am sharing in the sadness of the community because one of them grew up in the church, he was an altar server in the church,” he said.

He was referring to Jayden Reyes, 21, a former St Mary’s College student and Republic Bank employee. Also killed were Johnathon Arjoon, 28; Peter Williams, 31 and Kevin King, 33.

According to media reports occupants of a car opened fire on a group of men playing football in Gonzales. The injured were shuttled to hospital but the car followed, and the gunmen sought to finish off the victims.

Fr d’Hereaux continued that he felt “a shared sadness, a shared shock that this could take place. It was an experience that I won’t want anyone else to go through because you literally feel, this is it! We always say bullets have no eyes”.

“Hotspot” is a label placed on the Gonzales community which Fr d’Hereaux said is “an unfortunate kind of caricature”. As the parish priest for the past five months, he has seen a family-oriented people who look out for each other. “A sense of brother’s and sister’s keeper. When we have things in the church people come out and support. Gonzales is not the negative place it is being made out to be, hotspot, crime, but it’s not what is portrayed by security forces,” he elaborated.

As with the rest of society there were the productive and unproductive citizens, the lawful and unlawful. “You have a proportionate amount of people who are law-abiding, as we say the majority of Trinidadians are law abiding and good citizens. I can say for Gonzales the majority of people are law abiding and good citizens.”

The brazenness with which the gunmen pursued and killed persons at the PoSGH showed a “wanton disrespect for life…it is something that is horrorful and shows where we have reached as a society”.

He recalled that years ago the comment was made for the gang members to kill out themselves. Fr d’Hereaux stated: “Right now gangsterism is everybody’s business, there is no respect for innocent life in the way gangsterism has evolved. We probably never thought it would reach our doorsteps”.

As for the “gang-related activity” term commonly used today, he added, “gang-related activity is everybody’s business”.

As parish priest he was moved to do something to bring some kind of relief to the community. A Mass and liturgy of lamentation takes place tomorrow, Wednesday, June 5 from 5.30 p.m. at the St Martin de Porres RC Church for the repose of the souls of the young men killed and for peace in Port of Spain and especially the families. The community will unite in prayer for the conversion of hearts.

After the homily, parishioners will be invited to write down their feelings, which will be placed in a basket. Fr d’ Hereaux said the Mass is “to allow people in the context of the Mass to express their trauma, to express their pain, express their feelings. They’re to write it down and we will bring it up in the Offertory so it will be expressed and transformed positively by God’s grace. I am also going to encourage them just after Communion to pray with each other in pairs,” Fr d’Hereaux said.

The liturgy is open to Catholics and non-Catholics.