Upham's Corner Online

Parish Tries to Secure St. Kevin's School Buildings

Posted: January 25, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Vandalism and vagrancy at the vacant St. Kevin's school property had become a growing source of concern and worry for the neighbors.  Meanwhile on the "parish" side of the fence, Fr. Jack Ahern had found himself working against the tide, so to speak, repairing broken windows and doors in Building B only to find them broken again. 

Whoever wanted inside wasn't taking "no" for an answer. In January 2012 when the situation escalated to emergency status, Fr Jack authorized Building B professionally secured.  Never to be undone, that's when "they" turned their efforts to Building A.

The old St. Kevin's school property, comprising the entire block on Columbia Rd in Upham's Corner between the Bird St Youth Center and Pilgrim Church, lies vacant.  The Archdiocese of Boston closed it in 2008 as part of creating the Pope John Paul II Academy system. St. Kevin's consists of three buildings - the convent on Bird Street and two school buildings, one on Davern Ave (Bldg A) and one on Columbia Rd (Bldg B).

For the Right Rev. John J Ahern (Fr. Jack) who now heads up three Dorchester churches: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Columbia Road, Holy Family Parish on Hartford Street and St. Peter Parish on Meetinghouse Hill, St. Kevin's had become a headache.

Volunteers help maintain the property - youth from Boston College High School and, in the early fall, volunteers from the Upham's Corner Improvement Association (UCIA), who spent several hours cleaning up in front of the convent. But towards late fall, the property condition was worsening and neighbors suspected the homeless were living inside.

Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings On Dec 6, 2011 residents from the Improvement Association contacted Fr. Jack.  "A neighbor saw somebody coming out of the green doors.  They're getting in through the broken bathroom window."

"We're well aware," he said, "of the deteriorating condition of the property.  The Parish has redone the doors and reboarded the windows multiple times. People are using the property as an outhouse and we're finding syringes there."

He talked about finding someone dead in the building when his BC High students were cleaning the property.  Nobody could rouse the guy, not even the medics.  Eventually they realized he was still alive.

"What is it you expect us to do?" he asked in obvious frustration. "Our custodians are up there about 3-4 times a week and the police, too."

The parish secured the broken window but that didn't last.  More windows were broken into at both buildings and the front doors to the church (Bldg B) were now freely open to access.

School Furnishings Inside St. KevinsDuring the month of December residents noticed that sometimes the buildings were securely locked; sometimes they were open.  Had parish staff left the doors unlocked?  It wasn't clear. 

Several of the residents went inside expecting to see a building in disarray.  What they discovered, instead, was an attractive school in remarkably good condition.  What they didn't find was anyone living there. 

The truly surprising discovery was the amount of perfectly usable school equipment left in the building - room after room of student and teacher desks, chairs, filing cabinets and other school supplies.  Wow!  What a treasure!

At their Jan 3 meeting the Improvement Association discussed the possibility of holding a yard sale in the spring to "recycle and relocate" the St. Kevin school furnishings rather than watch it end up in a dumpster. 

They emailed Fr. Jack and sent photos of the contents from both buildings along with their proposal.  He seemed open to the idea and confirmed that no parish schools wanted any of the school property still remaining. 

On Jan 6 St. Kevin's took a turn for the worse.  The status was elevated to "emergency" because the police had just "escorted 5 squatters from the second floor of the school building.  They found them in the two different offices with full bed linen, heaters and other stuff." 

Fr. Ahern said he was very concerned and welcomed any suggestions on how to keep people from breaking in. "It's a fire waiting to happen."

Again parish staff went through the buildings and identified what the squatters had done to gain access.  All of that was taken care of and they expected no further problems.  But a week later on Saturday night, Jan 14, a resident walking by St.Kevin's noticed the front stairwell fully lit, found the front door of the church wide open and contacted Fr. Jack. 

That was the final straw. Over the week following, he authorized the back of the building - all first floor windows and doors - for professional boarding. 

"The situation was getting worse by the day so we got permission from the Fire Department.  Our concern was a fire and a repeat of Worcester with a fireman losing their life looking for someone in the building."

A week later (Jan 28) an area resident walking down Columbia Rd noticed the doors to Building A on Columbia Rd open and called UC News.  He let us know where the likely entry point was and he was right.

Bending metal grates covering windows is a lot of work but apparently worth it.  Once into the building you can pull the (bent) window grate towards the window (making it less conspicuous) then put up the plywood to close up the window, and it barely catches your attention. 

Exiting the building is NEVER done via access windows - too much trouble.  Just open the doors and walk out.

Fr. Jack says he will be sending someone over on Monday.

Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
A resident watched a guy walk out of these doors on Dec 5
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
The door was unlocked
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Heading towards the back corner of the building - you can see
the shredded metal over the window to the left
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Entry window -
the plywood was easily pushed open
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Inside the window was a rather dissheveled bathroom
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
View of bathroom from inside
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Front door unlocked
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
A broken window at the back of the building
secured with a table from the inside

Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Middle doors were loose
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
They were tied with a power cord
from the inside
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Privacy windows broken so the
doors could be opened
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Windows secured
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Windows and doors secured
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
Padlock on green doors
Condition of St. Kevin's School Buildings
The entire back of Building B is boarded up

St. Kevin's Building A Broken into
Doors on Columbia Road, Building A,
found open on Sat Jan 28
St. Kevin's Building A Broken into
At the back of Building A, one of the windows
looked suspicious - metal grate was bent

St. Kevin's Building A Broken into
The bent grate had been pulled to cover the window but easily
moved away as if on a hinge
St. Kevin's Building A Broken into
Plywood moves easily, providing
access to the inside.

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