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People in Surfside, Fla., watched as the rest of the Champlain Towers South condo building was demolished July 4 ahead of the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. The section brought down was damaged but had remained standing after the partial collapse of the residential building June 24.
People in Surfside, Fla., watched as the rest of the Champlain Towers South condo building was demolished July 4 ahead of the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. The section brought down was damaged but had remained standing after the partial collapse of the residential building June 24.
Photo Credit: Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Florida Catholics find comfort in Rosary as search continues amid rubble

More than 100 people were still missing as of July 6 after condo building collapsed June 24

MIAMI — Following the sudden collapse of a multistory building with people trapped inside, many Catholics around South Florida have fled to a common refuge: the comforting presence of Mary.

So it was that several schools in the Miami Archdiocese reacted to the June 24 fall of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside by praying the Rosary. Reflecting on its glorious, joyful, sorrowful and luminous mysteries, they called on the Mother of God for aid and comfort.

“I think everyone understands that in pain, you turn to your mother,” said Wency Ortega, who helped organize a virtual online Rosary June 27 for students, teachers, families and alumni of Christopher Columbus High School. “And in turning to our Mother, we turn to Jesus.”

About 2,000 people tapped into Columbus’ virtual Rosary, coordinated by a group of instructors and alumni of the Marist school in Miami. Taking part through YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook Live, they were knitted together via the StreamYard platform.

Individuals submitted their own intentions in chat boxes. They also prayed for members of a half-dozen families in the school’s “greater family” who remained missing.

As of July 6, 32 people were confirmed dead; 113 others remained unaccounted for since the collapse early June 24. The evening of July 4, crews demolished the remaining part of the building.

Other schools also have held or planned their own Rosaries. On June 28, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami drew 300 people to a “Prayer for Surfside.” Seated in the campus’ Roca Theater, they also heard words of encouragement from Jesuit Father Guillermo Garcia-Tuñon, school president.

Father Garcia-Tuñon first prayed for victims of the building collapse, as well as those who were still missing. Standing next to a statue of Our Lady of Belen, he also explained why the Rosary was the chosen vehicle for such prayers.

“As Catholics, we place so much of our hope and fears, our sadness and anger in the hands of the Mother of Jesus,” he said. “She experienced His joy and His sadness. She experienced His fear, anger and sorrow. She experienced his death. It is only natural that in times of such sorrow and pain that we run to our Mother for help.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Academy announced a Rosary for July 1, the one-week anniversary of the building collapse. The event, on Instagram Live, was planned especially for families who were still awaiting news of their loved ones — uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmothers and others.

“Each decade (of the Rosary) will be for one of the families,” Lourdes Academy spokesperson Olga Martinez said ahead of the Rosary. Different representatives from the community were to represent the families during the prayers.

Faculty and staff have been collecting donations for the affected families at Lourdes, Martinez said. She added that the school’s president, Sister Carmen Fernandez, an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, has offered support to them as well.

Miami archbishop, Boston cardinal, pastor offer prayers, comfort at site

After spending time at Surfside’s informal Wall of Remembrance memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski told CBS4 Miami July 2, “It’s quite shocking to see.” He made the comments during his visit to the memorial with Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and Father Juan Sosa, pastor of St. Joseph Church, which is close to the site.

“The people in the building represent so many different religious and cultural backgrounds. … One of the things that struck me really is when I’ve been reading the names of the families, survivors and the missing of how much this building represents a microcosm of all of South Florida,” the archbishop said.

The memorial sprung up following the tragic partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building near Miami Beach, Florida. It has been so popular that at one point local law enforcement had to close the area due to hundreds gathering on the streets there.

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