By Rosie Zepeda
What prompted Marlene Harden to battle the traffic across Santa Clara County to attend the “Mass of Remembrance for Victims and Survivors of Violence,” held at Saint John the Baptist in Milpitas on November 21. Humbly she answered: “Three years-ago my husband David Rodriguez was murdered in a home invasion in Los Gatos. This year would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. At first, I felt numbed, but now it comes in waves. After my husband’s death I had to learn to let people help me. I knew coming tonight would help me.”
Along with parish Associate Pastor Father Eddie Obero; Vicar for Evangelization Father Gerardo Menchaca; Father Daniel Urcia; Deacon Michael Haaso, and Emcee Father Jeff Hernandez, Bishop Oscar Cantú celebrated this special Mass for the first time, with the story about what he thought was a fallen tree, during a retreat in San Luis Potosí, México, as the centerpiece of his homily:
“A massive tree had fallen, but at closer look it revealed itself to be a large branch, not a tree, that had sprouted. All that grows looks upward, towards the light, in that direction. This said something to me: Roots planted in God’s love, a God who heals, a God that brings life, who allows me to continue to walk, to love and walk as a wounded healer. When Jesus dies on the cross, the disciples angrily ask:
‘…why did he not escape from those who wanted to kill him?
“It is during this time that Jesus appears to them. He showed them the wounds of this suffering, the wounds of his death…to remind the disciples, you, and me, that he suffered out of love. He turned that hatred into love. It was that love that became life giving. That is what you and I are being called to do. What we can change is how we carry those wounds, with hope, with love, those wounds become life giving.”
A bi-lingual choir, led by Joanne Wang, sang beautiful hymns before and after the liturgy. Victims were honored several ways: each of their names was read out loud, followed by the tintinnabulation of a single sacristy bell, with a family member carrying a small lit candle to the front of the altar. In the end, each of their 15 souls stood in harmony, represented by red candles, flickering together, individually shining bright, remembered by those in attendance with love.
Associate Director for the Office of Life, Justice, and Peace, Leland Campbell, thanked all those who came together to create a loving night of remembrance for the families. Afterwards the survivors and victims’ families gathered in the gymnasium for a gathering and appetizers, lovingly prepared by the ladies of Saint John the Baptist. Their specialty, “St. John’s crispy chicken,” disappeared in minutes, along with the Shanghai rolls.
Christine Haynes, who came all the way from Saint Edward’s Parish in Newark learned about the Mass from Beatrice Fitzpatrick, a member of the nationwide support organization: Parents of Murdered Children. When asked what stood out the most from the Mass, holding back tears, she said: “My son was murdered five years ago. He would have been 29 years old this year. Like the Virgin Mary, I too lost my son. Even though we have wounds, we still must move forward in love, we have to help others.” Bishop Cantú approached Christine, held her hands in his, she cried, let out a sigh and whispered: “Thank you.”