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. Families and friends being struck down in a small Texas church is only the latest of these images. 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. 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:
Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs. We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy—as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.
We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, His loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families.
This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at Churches while people were worshipping and at prayer. We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all.
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. If you are speaking with your friends, please try and move the conversation to either the Narthex (lobby of the church) or outside 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. 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 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.
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!