Nearly 100 people turned out for a bilingual prayer service May 27 at Holy Family Parish on Cleveland’s West Side. The outdoor ceremony featured prayers, music, Scripture and reflections in honor of the 19 students and two teachers who were killed May 24 in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
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Twenty-two small white crosses – one for each victim – were placed on the lawn in front of the church. Father Francisco “Paco” Honorato Garnica, CSJ, pastor, said the crosses were donated by the Knights of Columbus. Some Knights attended the prayer service, which was livestreamed on the parish Facebook page. The group gathered in front of the church near a large cross draped in white with a sign bearing the school’s name and address.
A light rain was falling as the service began and attendees clustered under umbrellas. Many carried candles.
In addition to Father Garnica, Father Damian Ference, diocesan vicar for evangelization; Father Mark Riley, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Cleveland; Father Rob Reidy, senior parochial vicar, Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish in Brook Park and Sagrada Familia’s previous pastor; and Father Justin Freeman, O de M, chaplain at MetroHealth Medical Center, participated.
Father Ference read the Gospel, the story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to protect the infant Jesus. He mentioned that Jesus wept a few times, including when his friend Lazarus died.
“It’s good to cry,” Father Ference said. “When we cry, sorrow leaves our body in the tears.” He said we should feel sad about the tragedy in Texas but we need to place our faith in God. Who loved the world so much that he felt his only Son of him to live among us and save us.
When we think of Emmanuel, we usually think of Christmas but we should remember that God is also with us in the pain of the cross. “He understands pain. He felt it,” Father Ference said. “He also sent his Holy Spirit to be with us, to help us understand and to move forward.”
There have been more mass shootings in the United States this year than days in the year so far, he said, which many times more than any other country.
“We tend to solve our problems with violence, not peace,” Father Ference said, imploring the Blessed Mother of Sorrows to be with us, to pray with us and to help us move forward.
After the names of the victims were read by Sister Juana Mendez, SC, Father Reidy offered his reflection in both Spanish and English. He said we must look at what is happening in our country and elsewhere in the world. “That is our work. We have to look at how to change things. I don’t have the solution. We must tell people that things have to change. My hope is that this won’t happen again,” Father Reidy said.
“Today, we pray. Tomorrow, we work,” he said, noting our work is to effect change.
After the prayer service, some of the attendees placed their candles next to a cross.
Father Garnica invited the public to write letters to the grieving people of Uvalde. The letters can be dropped off at La Sagrada Familia, 7719 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, for the next few weeks. He will package and send them to Texas as a way of showing love and support for the Uvalde community.