by Jack Long
In the face of the murder of 58 people, the Church has moved to suffer with the people of Las Vegas.
In the immediate aftermath of October 1st shooting, the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer served as a refuge for those escaping the shooting and soon allowed the police to use its parking lot as headquarters of the investigation. Eight days after the shooting, the Shrine remained closed to allow police to complete their investigation of the shooting.
The Diocese of Los Angeles did everything they could to address the shooting. At an interfaith prayer service the day after the shooting, the Bishop of Los Angeles, Joseph A. Pepe, cited the story of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to act in the face of tragedy. He said that in the face of increasing division and hatred, people must recognize “all humans are made in the image and likeness of God” and must “stand together as a sign of hope.” Locally, Father Steve Hoffer of the Holy Family took a more somber approach and reflected on both the shooting and a car accident that killed two boys, recording the questions of his parishioners: “How could these things have happened? How can we prevent these things from occurring? What can I do? How can I be safe? Why did God allow this to happen? Could it happen to me?” Father Bede Wevita of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Church answered these questions with the hope that in the face of violence, whether it be a shooting or the war that ravaged his home country of Sri Lanka, “when we unite, we can bring hope.”
Parishes also offered new programs to help the victims, like St. Anthony of Padua’s “firearms safety seminar,” Project ChildSafe, and the Church of the Holy Spirit’s New Beginnings grief Ministry, which organizes funeral masses, support groups, and instructions on consoling the grieving. Others used money collected at mass to give to Catholic Charities’ Las Vegas Victims’ Fund, with organizations like the Knights of Columbus setting up Pasta Dinners to finance the fund.
In addition to flying their flag at half-mast on the 3rd, the United States Council of Bishops (USCCB) released a statement penned by the Council’s President, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo. He announced that the Bishops were praying that “the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them." Six thousand miles from that Las Vegas, Pope Francis stood with Bishop Pepe and sent a telegram with “assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy,” along with praise for the law enforcement who served during the shooting. Both these statements were reprinted in the bulletins of Los Angeles’s parishes. Other responses include Bishop George Murry’s call to commit to the nonviolence of Martin Luther King and Cardinal Nichols’s prayer offerings of on behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales. These programs and prayers for the passing also mark the beginning of USCCB’s annual October effort, “Respect Life Month.”