By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
ALLEN – Eight candles solemnly sat before the altar at St. Jude Catholic Church. Each candle lit as the name of victims whose lives were lost May 6 during a deadly shooting at a nearby outlet mall was read aloud.
“We gather together as a community to pray for all those affected by the tragedy this past weekend,” said Father Andrew Semler, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Community as he concelebrated a Mass of Peace and Healing on May 10. “We have all those intentions in our heart as we gather as brothers and sisters. Know this Mass is for peace and healing as we offer our intentions.”
Just days earlier, a gunman opened fire at the Allen Premium Outlet mall, killing eight and wounding at least another seven people before being killed by a police officer who happened to be at the mall.
“There are a lot of people in our community who are hurting. There are a lot of people who are mourning,” Father Semler said. “We recognize that we all need some sort of healing. By bringing it to the Lord, we can begin the healing process. We know that we want to do it together – as a community.”
More than 600 people attended the Mass, a mix of parishioners and non-parishioners, Catholics and non-Catholics. Members of the Diocese of Dallas Office of Ministries were also in attendance.
“I wanted to be here, to be in communion with my faith community and join them in praying,” said Agnes Uzoma, a St. Jude parishioner. “That’s all we can do at the moment. Pray for the families, pray for the people that died, pray for our nation in general that this evil will come to an end.”
For Tracy and Becky Huber of McKinney, the reality of the tragedy struck close to home as their daughter, Ally, had plans to be at the outlet mall that afternoon with a friend.
“It’s by the grace of God she wasn’t,” said Becky Huber, explaining that her daughter had forgotten to bring a dress for the occasion and plans were shifted to the following day. “We are here to honor those who lost their lives, to pray for their families, and to thank God for our blessings. It’s love over hate every day.”
During his homily at the Mass, Deacon Robert Holladay urged those in attendance to remember that God “is with us on this journey.”
“God is here. He is here with us,” Deacon Holladay said. “He is with the families who lost their loved ones. He is at the hospital right now with those who are in critical condition. He’s with every one of us in here who hurts and grieves. He never leaves us because He loves us.”
Amid the recent tragedy, Deacon Holladay said to heed the words Jesus speaks in the Gospel of the day, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
“In this upside-down world in which we live today with all the hate, bickering, lies and the meanness that surrounds us, how can our hearts not be troubled?” asked Deacon Holladay. “We remember that He has promised us that one day we will be with Him in paradise, and that gives us hope. We are God’s people.”
Deacon Holladay urged the faithful to do “what Jesus taught us to do.”
“Love each other and pray,” he said. “Tonight, we offer up the souls of our brothers and sisters who have fallen to violence. We offer them up to God who is all merciful and loving. Let this be our comfort in a world that does its best not to comfort — Jesus is here to help us. And He is walking with us on this journey. Let us not fear it but instead lean on Him and He will help us get through it.