The Rev. Carlos Flor today looked directly at the woman weeping in the front row of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Jamaica Plain.
The body of her 9-year-old son, Janmarcos Pena, lay next to her in a small white coffin. Her other son, 14, was in a juvenile detention center, accused of fatally shooting his little brother.
“A mother is always the one who loves us the most. She is the person who always forgives us,” Flor told her in Spanish. “Your children were inside you. They were part of you. They’re an extension of you ... May God touch your heart so you can love, so you can forgive and find peace in the next days. ... Love all your children. It’s important they know you love them.”
Dozens of people sat quietly during the funeral Mass of Pena, a fourth-grade student at the James W. Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain whose killing Feb. 7 stunned city leaders and police already grappling with a surge in gun violence. The shooting of a child by his brother galvanized many in the city’s more violent communities to root out illegal firearms that seem to plague their neighborhoods.
Pena’s mother was outside her apartment on Morton Street in Mattapan last Friday, warming up her van so she could take her 14-year-old son to an appointment at a school she was hoping to enroll him in, according to relatives. Just after 11:30 a.m., Pena’s brother, whose name has not been released, allegedly shot him in the chest. Police have said they believe the shooting was accidental. Two law enforcement officials have said that the teenager was fiddling with a firearm when he pulled the trigger, hitting his brother.
The teenager fled the house, panicked. He was found minutes later on Walk Hill Street, still clutching the firearm. Police are still trying to learn where the gun came from. Two officials with knowledge of the case have said the teenager told investigators he wanted the gun for protection.
The teenager is being held on $50,000 cash bail in the custody of the state Department of Youth Services. He has denied charges of involuntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm.
The state Department of Children and Families had attempted to take custody of the teenager, who has a history of violent episodes, but a judge denied the agency’s request. By law, a judge can only grant a protection order to the state if there is evidence the child is in immediate danger of abuse or neglect at home.
At Pena’s funeral, relatives and friends of his family wore pins with a picture of the curly-haired boy smiling.
“Porque, Dios?” one woman said softly, as she stood near the casket. “Why, God?”
Flor told the congregation that he understood why they might want to blame someone for Pena’s death, even God.
“Couldn’t have God done something?” he asked. “How could God allow such horrible pain?”
Flor pointed to the snow falling outside and told the congregation to see it as a heavenly sign.
“The snow on the street makes everything more difficult, no?” he said. “But it comes softly, softly and covers everything in white. That’s a sign of God’s divine guidance. He gives us a blanket, a blanket that covers us in his love and tenderness.”
At the end of the Mass, Pena’s relatives gathered around the small casket to wheel it out of the church. But Pena’s 42-year-old mother was not ready to say goodbye. She threw herself on top of it and cried, refusing to let go.
Her relatives stood around her for several minutes, unsure of how to comfort her.
Flor walked to her and gently coaxed her up.
The family walked outside, their hands still on the coffin as they braced themselves against the cold and clutched five white balloons.
As the coffin was placed in a black hearse, they released the white balloons and watched them float away.