Is it incredibly sad to me that just a year ago, we were talking about a shooting in a Baptist Church in Texas, and now we are dealing with another gunman’s rampage in a Synagogue in Pittsburg. I do not think there is a single one of us that have not been impacted these past weeks and months with all the violence that has been thrust into our consciousness with the constant flow of hatred from all sides. It strikes me to my core that people coming together to worship God, in whatever form and tradition they may believe in, should not feel safe walking in the doors of their church, their synagogue, their temple, or their mosque. Quite honestly, my wife Donna can attest to the nights I stare up at the ceiling worrying about you, our Parish Family. But, I will never, ever, let the hatred or fear change our belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that He loves us all, and all he asks of us is that we love Him and each other. We are an open and hospitable community. Father Bob even talked about always keeping our church doors unlocked. We are here to support and encourage ourselves and our community and we will never surrender to the darkness of terror by succumbing to reactionary procedures. We have deployed Crowd Management certified individuals within our Ushers and Greeters. We have situational awareness workshops and Community Emergency Response Teams within our Parish Family. We all should feel safe and welcome at St. John at all times, no matter if we go to Daily Mass or if we are just arriving for the first time.
Cardinal DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had this to say last weekend:
This morning violence, once again, struck one of our communities, this time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is apparent at least eight souls lost their lives in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. To our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community, we stand with you. We condemn all acts of violence and hate and yet again, call on our nation and public officials to confront the plague of gun violence. Violence as a response to political, racial, or religious differences must be confronted with all possible effort. God asks nothing less of us. He begs us back to our common humanity as His sons and daughters.
I commend to our Lord the victims, including first responders, and for the consolation of their families. May Almighty God be with them and bring them comfort at this tragic time.
With our culture of life and love, we must all take a hard look at how we behave and how we show respect to all around us. There are several ways we can showcase our regard to each other while keeping our safety and security in mind:
- Pre-Mass Prayerful Time: We have a joyous community here at St. John and many people come to church early to meet each other to talk about their week and enjoy each other’s company. There are some members of our Parish Family, however, that are looking for a quiet and reflective moment of prayer, even while we are temporarily in our Ballroom for services. If you are speaking with your friends, please try and move the conversation outside or in our Life Center so we can respect those who are looking for time to pray.
- Parking and Walking: We are very blessed to have increased our front parking lot with over 40 new spots by reengineering the layout and adding the new lighting. We have also increased the parking in the partially paved locations due to the loss of the trees from the storm, along with the newly revamped back lot that has an easy pedestrian walkway to the Ballroom and Life Center. However, we are still finding people parking on the newly expanded roadway between the church and the school, as well as in the roadways and other locations marked as “No Parking”. These areas as specifically designated that way for our safety. If an emergency vehicle needs to get to our church Ballroom (and soon, the Gym) in the middle of Mass due to a health situation, all these areas must be clear. We even built a specific pedestrian walkway between the school parking lot and the church so people can safely travel between the two locations, instead of walking on the driveway. Please utilize those parking spots if you cannot find a location on the church campus.
- Words and Actions: The St. John Parish Family has always prided itself on being a welcoming place. As such, we should always act and speak in warm and engaging way to anyone who comes to campus. We may see them every week, or it may be the first time you have seen that person, but you never know what may be going on in their life and how they may need your connection and your friendship. A smile goes a long way to brighten up the spirit of the community just as opening the door for another person or helping someone who dropped a paper. As St. Ignatius of Loyola said: Love is shown more in deeds than in words.
We are all here to participate in the love and mercy of our Catholic Faith. Please bring that same joy outward from the church when you leave, spreading it and extinguishing the fire of hatred and fear that will never beat us. God Bless You!