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Praying and weeping for their neighbors

Mary Help of Christians parishioners join others in sharing grief

PARKLAND | Members of Mary Help of Christians Church joined other community groups in mourning the recent shooting rampage that took the lives of at least 17 people at a neighborhood high school.

About 40 people gathered on the night of Feb. 15, a day after the attack. They sang, wept and prayed for the victims and their families. Music director Tadeo Castro led the service in place of Father Jorge Puerta, the parochial vicar, who was helping to lead prayers at a nearby community service.

Speaking in Spanish as well as English, the Guatemala-born Castro confessed that he struggled to know what to say about a tragedy in a small community like Parkland, where everyone is affected because everyone is connected.

Tadeo Castro plays keyboard before giving the message at Mary Help of Christians Church, Parkland, during a prayer service for victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at a nearby school.

Photographer: Jim Davis

Tadeo Castro plays keyboard before giving the message at Mary Help of Christians Church, Parkland, during a prayer service for victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at a nearby school.

"It's so difficult to find the words to express how we're feeling at the moment," he said. "As a community, as a church, each of us in a way has a connection with what has happened."

But he added: "Even if we don't know what to say, we know what to do. Because prayer is the thing we know how to do best. We don’t need to be experts. We just need to be here."

Castro led prayers for healing of the city, for the parents and counselors, even for the nation. "Thank you, Lord, because you will answer us," he said. "Because your Word said so. Your words are life and truth."

He also asked volunteers from the audience to lead recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the rosary -- enabled to help lead, rather than just follow. Among those who did so were Marcos Gonzalez and his daughter Sabrina, 10.

"I'm praying for the families that are going through this ordeal, and especially those who lost a family member," said Marcos Gonzalez, who also brought his wife, Luz, and his other daughter Laura, 12. "I pray also for the soul of the person who committed this atrocity."

Castro also led praise and worship, playing keyboard as Luis Torres played guitar. Songs included "How Great is Our God" and "Give Me Jesus."

The worship leader recommended that people pray for peace on the way home. "The storm won't go away any sooner. But we can still have peace that can only come from God. And we're going to start seeing things in a different way."

Afterward, Julizza Licardie said the service was "like a cleansing" for her. She had to teach physical education at the parish school the next day.

"I needed to be here to cry," Licardie said. "It's nice to cry, and to heal together."

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