The communities of Holy Name Province — from Florida to New England — are coming together in prayer to pay tribute to the victims of the recent Orlando massacre, standing in support of the LGBT community and calling for tolerance and gun control reform.
In Connecticut, St. Patrick-St. Anthony in Hartford held a special Mass on June 14 where 50 people gathered, bearing lighted candles, processed into the church to pray, and to mourn. They joined together in grief as the pain of yet another tragic event tore the fabric of what it means to be a community.
“As the sun was setting and church bells were tolling for the 50 who died violently on the morning of June 12 at the gay club Pulse in Orlando, men and women began pouring into St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church. They were gay, lesbian, straight, parents, friends, those who stand in solidarity with the LGBT community, and those who were touched by the shooting deaths,” Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor, said.
“St. Patrick-St. Anthony, as after 9/11, Sandy Hook, and the many acts of violent death, gathered as an extended community to support all those who mourn. We joined in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers who were gathered at the Berlin, Conn., Mosque for prayer,” he said.
Several other ministries planned special liturgies to commemorate the lives of those lost in the tragedy.
A Mass of Remembrance was held at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Mass., on June 16. Joseph Quinn, OFM, director of the Shrine’s LGBTQ Spirituality Ministry, presided at this Mass.
“This is a story of human tragedy and suffering, and this time the target of hate was pointed at the LGBTQ community,” he said during Shrine-Joe Quinn homily on Orlando. “We are your neighbors, we sit next to you in church and on the T. We must be vigilant to be united in this tragedy and not run away or hide in fear. This is not the time for moments of silence, but rather a time to scream out loud, that all of us are sons and daughters of God and no one, absolutely no one, should ever be discounted, devalued, excluded or dismissed.”
“Our hearts are heavy with sadness over this senseless act of violence. The Shrine strives to be a place of peace and comfort for all, and we hope to provide a place of loving refuge for all those affected by this tragedy,” said Thomas Conway, OFM, executive director.
At St. Paul’s Church in Wilmington, Del., approximately 50 people came to pray at a Holy Hour on June 16 and on June 24, a Remembrance Mass was celebrated at Assumption of Our Blessed Lady Church in Wood-Ridge, N.J. on Friday, June 24. All were invited to join together to pray for the victims, families and first responders of the Orlando tragedy.
Calls for Peacemaking and Gun Reform
The community of St. Francis of Assisi in New York, in trying to process the recent tragedies in Orlando, will host an event to discuss the issue of guns in America.
On June 29 at 6:30 p.m. in San Damiano Hall on West 31st Street, St. Francis of Assisi’s Young Adult and LGBT ministries will present a screening and discussion of “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA.” Created by Brave New Films, it tells how guns affect the lives of everyday Americans.
The film also features the personal perspectives of those affected by gun violence, including survivors and victims’ families. Information about the film is available on the parish website.
Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla., just 90 miles from Orlando, will also screen the film. On July 6, the parish’s young adult group is invited to watch the film and participate in a discussion of the film, violence and gun control. Young adult groups from neighboring parishes are also welcome to attend.
At Sacred Heart’s weekend Masses following the tragedy, a special prayer and moment of silence were offered for the victims.
Franciscan Statements of Support and Concern
The leaders of Holy Name Province’s education ministries are supporting the victims and encouraging continued efforts at peacemaking.
In a statement to the Siena College community, F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, president, wrote:
“I would also like to encourage each of us to strive to be peacemakers, messengers of reconciliation, mercy, and compassion whenever we encounter hatred, bias, or the inclination to violence. The peacemaking message of St. Francis was directed at restoring ‘right and ordered love’ (caritas) whenever disorder and discord were encountered.
“Therefore, in the spirit of Francis, I invite all of us to dedicate some effort each day to being a peacemaker— an ambassador who shows others how to walk the path of right living, right relationship and right loving ‘in whatever way [you] are best able to do so’ (Francis of Assisi, Earlier Rule, XXII).”
Calling for continuing and increased efforts to eradicate hatred and prejudice was Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, president, St. Bonaventure University.
“As we grieve loss and violence, may we find within the strength to take up the commitments that will make our nation more inclusive, more discerning about how to navigate major societal change, and more open to finding a path forward on all of these fronts in spite of the numerous obstacles that we face,” Sr. Margaret wrote to the St. Bonaventure community.”
A Message from the U.S. Franciscans
The seven OFM provincial ministers, speaking on behalf of The Franciscan Friars of the United States, are calling for responsible gun reform, releasing a statement on June 17 that included support for LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy.
The statement reads in part: “More than 35,000 people die in the United States each year to gun violence. When it comes to mass shootings, the weapon of choice has become assault-style weapons which have one purpose alone – to kill large numbers of people. There is no place for this type of weaponry in the daily life of citizens. It is not a weapon of defense or of sport. It is only a weapon of mass killing. We encourage our President and our legislators, to once again ban these assault-style weapons in our country.
“There are also sensible measures that can be taken on the issue of background checks. It should not be more difficult to vote, get a driver’s license, or purchase cold medicine at the drug store, than it is to buy a gun. Universal background checks for all gun purchases no matter where they happen is a reasonable expectation when buying a weapon.”
“These two common sense reforms enjoy the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, and are a sensible first step in reducing the violence of a gun culture run amok in the U.S.
“It is time that we stand up as a people and say enough is enough. We strive to live up to our call to be instruments of peace in our world. We support these sensible measures to help us become a more peaceful, less fearful, society.”
The complete statement can be found on USFranciscans.org.
— Karen Karaszewski is a freelance writer based in Western New York.
- Holy Name Province’s Justice and Peace Efforts
- “WNY Secular Franciscans Advocate for Gun Violence Awareness” — April 2, 2014, HNP Today