SAN ANTONIO — Those finding themselves between hurt and hope in difficult times need help.
This has been the case in Uvalde, Texas, since a mass shooting May 24 at Robb Elementary School took the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
Another 17 were injured, and according to news reports, six remained hospitalized as of May 30, including one in serious condition.
Catholic priests, deacons, church staff, parishioners, and staff of schools and organizations continue to provide counseling, financial aid and additional services to the families who lost loved ones and to others in the devastated community.
“God is good in the midst of the darkness,” said Father Matthew De Leon, who has been helping the Uvalde community. His own parishioners have been preparing food for the volunteers in Uvalde.
He is pastor of two parishes not far from Uvalde, St. Patrick’s in Sabinal, Texas, and St. Joseph’s in Knippa, Texas. He also serves as pastor of St. Mary’s in Vanderpool, Texas, about an hour away.
He said that he and others were now planning funeral services for those who had lost their lives in the shooting.
Counseling and other services for those in Uvalde have been available at Sacred Heart Catholic Church there, as well as SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center and the Fairplex, a meeting facility, the priest said.
Uvalde and surrounding towns are part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which has been assisting family members directly affected by the violent act.
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller has been celebrating Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde daily. He also has been meeting with people to console them.
Ministry to those experiencing loss involves “a lot of learning,” he said. “We go at a slow pace in accompanying the grieving. We walk at the pace of the people.”
Archbishop García-Siller said those who had survived the shooting situation also had been affected by it.
“All of us are invited to learn and grow” from such experiences, he said. “People can discover a new relationship with God.”
He described having talked earlier that day with some children at Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Del Rio, Texas, and said he had been moved by their compassion. They had told him that they were praying for the souls of those who had died in Uvalde and their parents and for the school shooter’s family.
But even in the grief and pain, Archbishop García-Siller, who has tended to those grieving in Uvalde, said in his May 29 homily that he’s witnessed a lot of “goodness in people, in the midst of suffering and loss.”
And it is toward Jesus, His life and death, that all must look for comfort and guidance in this time of trial, the archbishop said.
“After He rises from the dead, Jesus does not return to take revenge on those who murdered or abandoned Him. His first greeting to His disciples is: ‘Peace be with you,’” he said.
And if there’s a place that needs peace, it’s Uvalde, where questions, as well as indignation, linger about efforts made or not made to stop the shooter.
“It’s OK to be angry. But that anger can’t turn into hate,” the local pastor, Father Eduardo Morales, has been urging the local community during Mass.
Archbishop García-Siller asked all to pray and embrace the families of those who have lost loved ones.
“And we embrace the families as a mother her children. We cry like a mother does! Our children have been taken away! The pain of families in Uvalde is our own,” he said in his homily.
He urged all to keep focused Jesus and His message.
“Thanks to Him we are a people of life. He allows us to deeply embrace the pain as we go through it and enables us to comfort with hope those who mourn. He strengthens us in times of trial,” he said.