Archbishop of Miami reflects on Florida tragedy and how pastors are responding

The country is reeling after the violence on Ash Wednesday, when a school shooting claimed the lives of seventeen students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Most Rev. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, spoke with Morning Air® on Friday about the Archdiocese’s response in the wake of this tragedy.

“Many of these victims were parishioners of parishes in that Parkland area. In fact, one parish is located about a mile away from the school that saw the violence. One of the 14-year-old girls that died graduated from the Catholic school there at Mary Help of Christians parish, and so she will be buried out of that parish on Tuesday,” said Archbishop Wenski. “I believe a coach that sacrificed his life in protecting students was also a Catholic … I was talking to a pastor and he’s preparing to bury him at his parish. In the next few days, pastors will be accompanying their parishioners, those who have had immediate loss of loved ones and those that are understandably shaken by this.”

“Pope Francis talks about how we have to accompany our people, and this is certainly one example. And yesterday I received through the nunciature a letter from Cardinal Parolin expressing the sympathies of the Holy Father for those affected by this violence in Parkland,” said Archbishop Wenski.

Along with the news of the violence came many stories of heroic bravery. “One of the things that struck me was the story of that football coach who protected the students and did the best he could to prevent them from being killed. And how that kind of reaction reveals a truly Christ-like spirit in action, because when faced with manifest evil he didn’t think of himself, he thought of those students,” remarked Fr. Gerry Murray: pastor, canon lawyer, and regular contributor to Morning Air.

Archbishop Wenski spoke about the importance of reporting unusual or dangerous behavior among at-risk individuals, and not to let worries about tolerance keep one from intervening in a situation in which there are warning signs that someone needs help for mental illness.

He recommends that parents work to “cultivate in [their children] a real faith that’s based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. A faith that’s not just sentimentality; sentimentality does not get us through tough times,” said Wenski. In the face of tragedy such as this, strong faith in Jesus Christ is essential.

“Events like this bring out the worst in people but also, they bring out the best in people,” said Archbishop Wenski.