Mass Shootings in Religious Places

March 17, 2019

The teaching of Jesus...Today’s world situation...Our response:


About 2,000 years ago our Lord and God sent Jesus Christ into our world. Jesus was the son of God having been conceived by the Holy Spirit. One of the many teachings of Jesus was love and tolerance. At the time of Jesus Palestine was divided. You had the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Samaritans, the Christians. They really did not like each other.


But Jesus taught a different way, a better way, a way of love, forgiveness, and tolerance. Remember the Good Samaritan? Remember the Roman centurion’s slave? How about the cleansing of the leper? Remember Levi the tax collector? Speaking of tax collectors, how about Zacchaeus? The list could go on and on.


Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6, 27 ff)

Today we live in a world where it would seem violence and intolerance are rampant, just as though Jesus never came to earth in the first place. Acts of terrorism are occurring on a regular basis. The world is filled with intolerance towards anyone who is not like us or does not agree with us. Narcissism and nationalism reign supreme. The result: terrorism, mass shootings, and bombings are on the daily news programs.


We have mass shooting in theaters, at concerts, in market places, in schools and now in houses of worship. Just last week 46 people were killed in a mass shooting  in a mosque in New Zealand; last October 2018  a gunman entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed and 6 others were injured. Last year 26 people were killed and 20 more were injured at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas during Sunday service. In 2015 a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, SC : a self-radicalized white supremacist named Dylann Roof. We have had mass shootings in synagogues, Sikh temps, Christian Churches, and in mosques.


The question we have to ask ourselves is: Can this ever happen here is our church?


I, our staff, and our parish council have been discussing this issue for a long time.  Recently myself and several members our parish council, including our assistant police chief Scott Weamer, attended workshops on church safety The workshop emphasized being pro-active rather than reactive.


Here is what we have done so far. You may have noticed a police car in the parking lots before and after our two Sunday Masses. We have partnered with Old North Church in hiring a police officer to patrol both churches on Sunday mornings. We are splitting the cost. We have also installed a security door in the main office with a bulletproof glass window and a buzz-in lock system. At 10:00 AM on week days all the church doors are locked except the rear handicapped doors unless there are events happening. The buildings are no longer wide open.   


At last Wednesday’s parish council we learned that Old North wants their own officer to patrol their church alone for all of Sunday morning. Our sharing the officer with Old North is over. So our options became no longer having an officer outside the church or ourselves hiring another officer to be present only at St. Michael’s for the entire Sunday morning, doubling the cost of sharing one. Parish Council unanimously decided to hire an officer to be present all of Sunday morning here at St. Michael at a cost of around $125.00 per Sunday. He/she will be present in uniform both inside and outside of the building. We especially want the officer to be near our children when they are going to and from their own Liturgy of the Word.  You should see this happening within a few weeks.


In conclusion, our whole thrust is prevention. At the workshop I mentioned earlier we learned that if a shooter knows there is a police officer on duty he will move on. It is truly a shame the world has come to this, but it has. In my opinion, Canfield and St. Michael’s are both very safe places and we have about a 1% chance of something like this happening, yet we all know that it could.

Meanwhile, let us pray for one another. Amen.

Fr. Terry Hazel