April 11, 2014

Faith, forgiveness marked life and death of young Catholic killed in shooting

Father C. Ryan McCarthy celebrates a Solemn Requiem Mass for Nathan Trapuzzano at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis on April 5. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Father C. Ryan McCarthy celebrates a Solemn Requiem Mass for Nathan Trapuzzano at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis on April 5. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

On the morning of April 1, 24-year-old Nathan Trapuzzano—who next month was anticipating the birth of his first child, his first wedding anniversary and his 25th birthday—was shot and killed while taking a walk in his west side Indianapolis neighborhood.

While his death has raised a public outcry against crime, it has also raised awareness of a man lauded as a pro-life advocate, a good Catholic and a role model for men.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Trapuzzano’s Indiana story began in the Lafayette Diocese at Ball State University in Muncie, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2011 with a degree in Latin, Greek and classical studies.

In his blog “For Christ and the Church” (andthechurch.com), Father Christopher Roberts of the Lafayette Diocese spoke of how he met Trapuzzano.

“My visits [to the Catholic students at the Newman Center at Ball State] involved an hour conference on some aspect of the faith and exposition [of] the Blessed Sacrament in the church,” he wrote.

“One of the Ball State students who faithfully attended these Tuesday evenings was Nathan. There were two things beyond his command of Latin letters that impressed me about Nathan.

“The first was his goodness. He was a true gentleman, considerate of others and always wanting to become a better man.

“The second thing that impressed me about Nathan was his deep Catholic faith. He wanted to understand and live his faith at the greatest depth possible.”

Friends also praised Trapuzanno’s admirable qualities.

“Nathan was one of those guys you could really tell was very unselfish,” said Branden Stanley, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis who first met Trapuzzano at Ball State. “He was a model for true men in that he was very strong physically, mentally and strong in faith, but at the same time had a vulnerability that allowed him to let you in.”

Catherine Thomas was touched by Trapuzzano’s care and compassion as they served together as pro-life sidewalk counselors at the Clinic for Women abortion center in his neighborhood.

“[The other counselors and I] had been praying for someone in the neighborhood to come join us where we sidewalk counsel at 16th and Rochester,” Thomas said of her fellow volunteers for Truth and Compassion, an ecumenical pro-life ministry.

“In all the years we’ve been out here, we didn’t get participation from the people in the area. I told the Lord, ‘I want you to send someone from the area to stand with us.’ A week later, Nathan and [his wife] Jenny stopped by and said they live in the neighborhood.”

The young couple, who would have celebrated their first wedding anniversary on May 11, started praying the rosary in front of the abortion center.

But when Trapuzzano heard there was a need for someone to stand with Thomas on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m., he began sidewalk counseling with her.

“I was so impressed with him and his being willing to stand out there with me,” Thomas said. “He had a sincere heart for this ministry.”

Truth and Compassion counselor John Stutz, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, was also impressed by Trapuzzano, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis.

Standing in front of the west side abortion center before the funeral Mass on April 5, Stutz recalled how he met the young Catholic.

“I was on the other side of the fence there [behind the abortion center]. I have a stool I use so I can try to talk to people over the fence. Nathan came back there one day and we met. He stayed with me about 15 minutes. Then he walked home, got a stool and joined me. We spent probably an hour, hour-and-a-half together.

“He was just a beautiful person, a faithful young Catholic.”

Stutz shared how just hours before the funeral they had a “save”—someone who came for an abortion but changed their mind.

“Praise God!” he said with a smile. “It doesn’t happen that often. We’re going to attribute this to Nathan.”

Holy Rosary Church was filled to capacity for the funeral Mass.

Father C. Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, celebrated the Solemn Requiem Mass in Latin. Father Roberts gave the homily. (See a photo gallery from the Mass)

“We celebrate a Solemn Requiem Mass at the request of Nathan’s wife, Jennifer, who indicated this would have been what Nathan wanted,” Father Roberts began.

“There is so much that we could say and so much that has already been said about Nathan in the past week. We could reflect at length about his involvement in the pro-life movement. We could share stories about his great love for his wife Jennifer and his soon-to-be born daughter Cecilia.

“We could reminisce about Nathan’s intelligence, goodness and deceivingly keen sense of humor. We could marvel about the tremendous outpouring of goodwill that Nathan’s murder has created.

“But rather than focus on these very worthy themes, we will focus today on forgiveness.”

It’s a focus his friend lived, Father Roberts said.

“Nathan Trapuzzano was a man who knew from his head to his toes that he was a sinner who was loved and forgiven by God,” the priest continued. “He wanted everyone he met to know the same love and forgiveness.

“His friends report that during his college years he went to confession very frequently, even weekly, so that he could become more and more the man that God had created him to be.

“His wife Jennifer wanted everyone to know that celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation was one of the last things that Nathan did, going to confession a day before he died earlier this week.

“He wanted to love others with a pure and humble heart.

“One of the most important aspects of having such a heart is being able to forgive unconditionally. Nathan knew that the best way to learn how to do that was to ask for such forgiveness for himself.”

His friend also knew the power and depth of God’s love, Father Roberts said.

“Nathan would have wanted everyone here to know something in our bones. Each one of us here is loved with an infinite, personal and unconditional love by a merciful God. There is nothing that we can do that God will not forgive. We can refuse to accept that mercy, but God will never stop extending it.

“The last lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis capture the Christian mystery that gives us hope today: ‘It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life,’ ” Father Roberts concluded.

In front of the abortion center before the funeral, sidewalk counselor Ben Manring also tried to give perspective to Trapuzzano’s tragic death.

“The people that [commit such crimes] are often people that don’t have a father in their life,” he said. “They get into this evil that could have been prevented by a better family life. And here was Nathan about ready to raise a great family.”

In the church parking lot after the funeral, Father Rick Nagel, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, who knew the Trapuzzanos through a Bible study, said many have asked him why God could allow something so tragic to happen.

“Perhaps the Lord knew Nathan could do more good in heaven,” Father Nagel said. “If this could somehow change the hearts of those two men who killed him and bring them to Christ, that would mean so much to Nathan.”

Dolores Tucker, executive director of Truth and Compassion, also yearns for justice and conversion of the men who took Trapuzzano’s life.

“The irony of the fact that he was gunned down in the lot where we park to pray is not lost on me,” she said.

“I believe this is a spiritual battle. This is not a gun control issue or a gang issue. This is an issue of the heart—the heart of our city, the heart of our youth.

“[The killers] need transformation from the inside, and the only thing that will do this is a relationship with Christ.

“I urge people to pray aggressively,” Tucker said. “Pray not just that these men come to justice, but that they be tormented in heart by guilt and misery so that they come to Christ, that Nathan’s blood will not be in vain—not worth the loss, but not in vain.”

(To donate to a fund started by the Trapuzzano family to help pay for funeral and upcoming baby expenses, log on to www.gofundme.com/7zj4fo#. Cards, condolences or personal donations can also be sent to Jennifer Trapuzzano, P.O. Box 665, Danville, IN 46122. Donations can also be made to the Trapuzzano Memorial Fund at any PNC bank. For a schedule of prayer times at the abortion center where Nathan Trapuzzano volunteered as a sidewalk counselor, email Dolores@truthandcompassionindy.com with a subject of “Schedule request.”)


Related story: Faith is a path to find meaning in Nathan Trapuzzano’s death

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