June 3, 2022


More unspeakable tragedies and our response as people of faith

There are no words that properly express the devastating grief, anguish and pain that resulted from another mass shooting—this time at an elementary school in Texas. It occurred only days after a senseless, racially-motivated shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket on May 14 that killed 10 people, the majority of them Black.

Tears again flow for families, a community, our nation and our world as we now mourn the deaths of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

How can a troubled 18-year-old shoot his grandmother, then drive a few miles and minutes later gun down innocent children and teachers who were two days from ending the 2021-22 school year? How can the teen so easily obtain an AR-15 rifle and an arsenal of ammunition to carry out such heinous actions?

There are no easy answers to what took place on that horrific day in Texas, but we, as a society, need to address the actions that lead to such tragedies that have become too commonplace in America. And they must be addressed now.

“When will these insane acts of violence end?” asked San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller in a statement. “It is too great a burden to bear. The word tragedy doesn’t begin to describe what occurred. These massacres cannot be considered ‘the new normal.’ ”

We believe the majority of humankind values all human life from conception to natural death, so it can never be considered “normal” when lives are lost through the evil actions of an unstable individual. And we especially cry tears of anguish when the innocent are the victims.

“The Catholic Church consistently calls for the protection of all life; and these mass shootings are a most pressing life issue on which all in society must act—elected leaders and citizens alike,” said Archbishop García-Siller. “We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable.”

Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the organization joined Archbishop García-Siller in prayers for the Uvalde community.

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent. Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others,” she said in a statement. “As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

As in other recent mass casualty incidents—including the Buffalo tragedy—many are justifiably pointing to the ongoing gun control debate, which has again come to the forefront because the Uvalde shooter so easily obtained weapons and ammunition. Others bring mental health to the conversation and ask why the warning signs shown were not properly addressed. Still others point to social media and its indiscriminate use by young people and how red flags should have been raised if more attention were given to questionable and unhealthy rhetoric on those platforms. It now also must be paramount to increase school security and to have schools follow more consistent measures that will ensure the safety of all students and staff.

While these issues must be addressed, we also believe now is a time for society to truly embrace its call to be missionary disciples who value every person in their thoughts, words and deeds and to take that tenet to heart with every breath we take.

We see without fail how tragedy and the resulting heartbreak brings the majority of humanity together, but we need to remind ourselves—as families, as communities, as a nation and world—that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We need to look for warning signs when we see unhealthy behavior in family, friends, acquaintances on social media—anyone who crosses our path.

Every day, we are called to love our neighbor no matter their skin color, nationality, political affiliation or faith tradition. Too many continue putting up walls of divisions instead of working on building up the body of Christ. As we work to find solutions, we need to remember we were each made in the image and likeness of God—from the baby in his mother’s womb to the elderly in an assisted living facility, to the immigrant looking for a new life to the prisoner on death row—we all make up the body of Christ.

Of course, we know as people of faith that prayer must be at the top of our list in our response to these days that will haunt our nation for years to come.

We pray for the families affected by these unimaginable tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo, for the communities and for all impacted. We also pray for those who will work—politicians, law enforcement and all called upon—on addressing how to make sure something like this never happens again.

For our communities, for our nation, for humanity, for our children, please God, hear our prayers.

—Mike Krokos

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