Dominican Fathers
Sunday - May 13, 2001
Ricardo is dead at the age of 22. His life and death was a human tragedy of horrific proportions but, hopefully, it will not have been in vain, if we can learn something from it. Sadly, I know nobody who knows anything of his infancy or childhood. I do know he hit the streets of Port of Spain, homeless and helpless, at the age of nine and lived out the rest of his short life just trying to make it from one day to the next, just trying to find the means of safety and support. I do know that in his desperate struggle to survive he got into trouble with the law and was in and out of prison. His last days were spent in the Infirmary of the Royal Jail, a victim of the dreaded AIDS virus. I do know, too, that his body lay in the mortuary for five days, unwanted, rejected and unclaimed. Ricardo was good. Good in his own special way. Not good, maybe, in the way you and I are good. But still good. Some of the things he did were bad. But, at heart, he was good. What happened to him should not have happened. Ricardo never got the chance in life you and I got. He was a kid nobody wanted to know or to have around them. On the outside he was street-wise and tough, on the inside needy and scared. He would have liked nothing more that to be loved and nurtured and cared for and given the chance to grow up, get an education, a job and live a decent and respectable life. I ask myself again and again, could I have survived had I been faced with the daily pressures and disadvantages that was normal life for Ricardo? Is life fair? No, unfortunately life is not always fair and in Ricardo・s case it was extremely unfair. There are many Ricardo・s walking our streets. Are they lazy, irresponsible and undeserving of our sympathy? Fair questions, but not easy to answer. Homeless people are not faceless masses but individuals. There are those who are new to the streets; the recently unemployed, the families and the elderly, who can no longer make ends meet. And there are the chronically homeless people, like Ricardo, whom we call :vagrants;, men and women who no longer believe in themselves or society, and have simply given up. Some chronically homeless are, indeed able-bodied but they are not necessarily able-minded. Some are mentally ill. Others have severe emotional problems as well as addictions to drugs and alcohol that prevent them taking care of themselves and working for their food and shelter. Some of the chronically homeless may look like they are capable of providing for themselves. But they are tormented by self-doubt and hate. Why try for a job when you have lost every one you ever had? Why try to mend relations when your wife and children have said they hate you. Do the chronically homeless need our sympathy? No, but they do need our help. We cannot stop providing food and shelter because the chronically homeless do not have the inner strength to provide for themselves. At the same time we must recognise that meeting physical needs is not the ultimate solution. More that anything, the chronically homeless need hope, hope that somehow they can change their lives, that they can hold down jobs and make it on their own. We claimed the body of Ricardo. We adopted him as a brother, as one of our own, alas, in death. We said farewell at a simple but moving funeral service in our Parish Church and later, with dignity and respect, laid him to rest on the side of Cameron hill overlooking beautiful Petit Valley. Ricardo touched our lives and already we are the better for having him in our midst. Rather that just mourn his death and bemoan the world he lived in, we ask, can he inspire us, to make life better for the homeless and improve the quality of their lives? Already we have a dream of starting a home for the chronically homeless in honour of a man who came into our lives unannounced, not in life but in death itself, a man whom we have come to know and understand and love. NOTE: This is a reprint of a piece I wrote when I was Parish Priest of St. Anthony・s, Petit Valley, situated on the outskirts of Port-of- Spain, Trinidad on the 20th May 1990. I wish to honour and keep alive the memory of a man who died destitute, but who in death, touched the life of a nation. Sadly, Ricardo lives on in the lives of many needy people in our affluent Celtic Tiger society today.

Though Provoking

Four times as many beggars and almost ten times as many prostitutes are being prosecuted under the Government・s 1997 call for zero tolerance crime policy. :This is hardly the hallmark of an enlightened society. The notion that beggars might be more vigorously pursued is abhorrent. The contrast with the lack of energy devoted to the pursuit of white collar criminals could not be more marked. As Jonathan Swift observed: :Laws are like cobwebs, which catch small flies but let wasps and hornets break through; ..........Ignoring the crimes of the wealthy is a dangerous bias.......... Irish Examiner 1/5/2001.

Notice Board

ALIVE AND FREE A new CD, Alive and Free, has just been released in Canada of live homilies Fr. Vincent preached in Vancouver. A limited number of copies are now available in the shop at a special offer of G5. SUNDAY MORNING IRELAND: Log in to this religious programme going out to the world website audience from St. Saviour・s, Bridget Street, Waterford. every Sunday morning. If you know a friend with access to the internet, who might be interested, please spread the word. E-MAIL: Note our e-mail address. If you have any comments, criticisms, insights, suggestions, we would be pleased to hear from you. We are grateful and encouraged by the responses we have received.

Church Schedule

MASS SATURDAY: 7.30pm Vigil Mass SUNDAY: 7.00am 10.30am 12.00 noon 7.00pm Weekdays : 8.00am 10.30am CONFESSIONS SATURDAY : 10.10 - 10.25am 11.00 - 12 noon 4.00 - 5.00pm Weekdays : 10.10 - 10.25am Confessions/Rite of Reconciliation on Saturdays: 11am - 12noon 4pm - 5pm All correspondence to: Fr Vincent Travers O.P. Bridge Street, Waterford. Tel: 875061 Fax:858093. Website: E-mail:

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