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Patricia Henderson, Ifiok Usanga, Daniel Andrews and Dana Holden held hands during a prayer vigil Aug. 14 held for Usanga's 7-year-old son, Xavier Usanga, who was shot and killed outside his home Aug. 12.
Patricia Henderson, Ifiok Usanga, Daniel Andrews and Dana Holden held hands during a prayer vigil Aug. 14 held for Usanga's 7-year-old son, Xavier Usanga, who was shot and killed outside his home Aug. 12.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Community remembers Xavier Usanga, Most Holy Trinity parishioner killed in Hyde Park neighborhood

Prayers, calls for community action were highlighted at evening vigil

Sister Janice Munier, SSND, parish life coordinator at Most Holy Trinity Parish, told stories about 7-year-old Xavier Usanga who was killed Aug. 12. The Usanga family has been active in the parish for many years.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Xavier Usanga
Photo Credits: Courtesy Most Holy Trinity
Xavier Usanga was remembered as a bright young boy with an infectious, vibrant smile who always made sure others around him were happy.

A prayer vigil for the 7-year-old who was fatally shot was held Aug. 14 in front of his home on North 14th Street. Nearly 200 people spilled into the street near Most Holy Trinity Church in the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis, where the family has been active parishioners for years.

Xavier was fatally shot Aug. 12 outside of his home. He was supposed to start second grade at Clay Elementary School the following day. An 18-year-old near him also was injured in the shooting. A person connected to the shooting is in custody; no charges had been filed at press time.

Sister Janice Munier, SSND, parish life coordinator at Most Holy Trinity, said that parishioners have been calling with offers of financial support as well as meals for the Usanga family. Xavier was the youngest of six children; his five older sisters were always looking out for him.

Sister Janice described Xavier as “full of life. He was a preemie. When they brought him to church, he was tiny, tiny, tiny. We’ve all known him as this loving child.”

She spoke of his involvement at church, including a time when he was invited to carry the baby Jesus in a procession at midnight Mass on Christmas, and another time when he found a baby lamb stuffed toy hidden at an Easter Mass. “He was just a super, special kid,” she said. “The two younger girls (two of his sisters) and the boy were always together. They’re known to the community and would go to community events when we have things in Hyde Park.”

A shrine was erected outside the home of 7-year-old Xavier Usanga, who was killed outside his home across the street from Most Holy Trinity Parish in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Community members prayed during a vigil for 7-year-old Xavier Usanga.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Church representatives, community officials, police and family were among those who spoke at the vigil, which was organized by the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition. Many called for increased action within the community to stop the violence and to build up neighborhoods.

“As a community we need to start saying, ‘What can I do to help?’” said Xavier’s grandmother, Mary Norwood, who made a personal appeal to offer help to anyone who needed it. “My wish for everybody out here is that we start looking around and taking responsibility for your neighborhood. Form those committees and say how are we going to improve our neighborhoods. We’ve got to leave the world better than when we got it.”

Norwood said she’d like to see the vacant lot next to Xavier’s house made into a park. She trembled when she said she forgives the person who killed her grandson. “I forgive you, because I have anger inside of me and I don’t want to hold it inside of me,” she said. “My heart is bleeding, but I know a God, and I know where He’s at. I know He’s got my baby and he’s OK. I’m worried about the babies out here.”

Third Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley was among those who called on the crowd to renew efforts to organize neighborhoods. St. Louis has ranked number one for homicides, he said. “That ain’t nothing to be proud of,” he shouted. “We have to change the stereotypes, we have to change the rhetoric, we have to change the conversation. It’s on every one of us.”

Precious Usanga, 18, and her sisters were always looking out for their little brother. Their parents, Ifiok and Dawn Usanga, had two other boys who died in infancy, “and we were afraid he was going to pass too,” as a preemie, Precious said. “He was always happy. And in a way he was fine in not getting his way — as long as everybody else was happy he was happy.”

JoAnn Milo-Gibson, a retired family community specialist at Clay Elementary School where Xavier attended, described him as “a bundle of joy. He was sweet, always ready to work. Some days he’d come in and he wouldn’t be feeling good, and then we would just tell him do your best. He was just a wonderful child.” Referring to the person who shot Xavier she said, “You took a little kid’s life. This hurts so bad. I never dreamed I would be here for this. I thought I would be seeing him in second grade.”

Father Martin Mannion, a priest in residence at Our Lady of the Holy Cross Parish in Baden, was overcome with emotion as he led a prayer for 7-year-old Xavier Usanga.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Tiniki Steele, who runs a day care in the neighborhood, stopped after the vigil to view the memorial of photos, action figures and other mementos placed in front of the Usanga family home. “He was always smiling, always so happy an energetic,” she said. “He was always with his sisters, all throughout the neighborhood. You’d see them all the time.”

People participated in a prayer vigil for 7-year-old Xavier Usanga. Xavier was shot and killed Aug. 12 outside his home near Most Holy Trinity Parish in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston













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