I heard about this just before the opening of our diocesan convention. My oldest daughter, who served as youth delegate from our county, was out picking up breakfast for us when I heard the news. I was glad I had the chance to talk with her when she returned to our hotel room and break the news to her before convention opened.
When convention opened and the news was announced that the parish administrator and co-rector had both been shot, we were stunned. Brenda Brewington, parish administrator, was pronounced dead at the scene. Co-rector Mary-Marguerite Kohn+ was flown to Baltimore Shock Trauma and kept alive on life support so that organ donations could be arranged. Douglas Jones, the homeless man who perpetrated this act of violence, was found dead in the woods near the church of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This was the first time my daughter had confronted a senseless, violent death. Given that a priest was dead, and her mom is a priest, this was hard to process and understand. She was very teary at the opening of convention. But we gathered together and other people at our table offered her comfort and consolation. She had a safe place to process this horrible news. And she was surrounded by people of faith who showed her how Christians cope with tragedy:
- We cried together and had conversation
- We offered forgiveness to the gunman
- We prayed the litany at the time of death for Mary-Marguerite+
- We offered Eucharist in thanksgiving for all who minister in Christ's name
- Two parishes offered their churches to the family of the gunman for his funeral
- We recommitted ourselves to helping the most vulnerable in our communities
So where did my daughter learn to cope with senseless tragedy? Where did she hear about the injustice of a society where the mentally ill have less access to treatment than they do to guns? Where did she hear about people recommitting themselves to serve Christ? Where did she hear an affirmation of life? She heard this surrounded by her Church. She didn't learn this on the playing field.