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Bishop Fisher Catholic Life Features

Bishop Fisher delivers message in memory of May 14 shooting


My dear friends, fellow members of the Buffalo community,

On this day a year ago, our community experienced an act of what can only be described as pure evil, taking from us cherished family members and loved ones, lifelong friends, and the misguided notion that a trip to the grocery store could be just that. It was an event that caused the nation and those far beyond our borders to look to Buffalo and again point to fundamental issues that plague our society: persistent attitudes of racism that still fester in the minds and hearts of some; the frequent eruptions of extreme violence that seem endemic to American society; the proliferation of guns and the random killing of so many innocent men, women and children for reasons that defy understanding – and our ability to end them.

Sadly, this one year after that horrible day at the Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue, the answer to the agonizing question of “why” is no more within reach today than in the hours and days following that unconscionable act of evil. What we do know and understand well, is all that we lost on that spring day a year ago: lives that made a difference, lives that made so much possible for others; lives that accomplished so much good: parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, loved ones and friends who were taken from us in a matter of minutes for reasons that will never make sense:

● Aaron Salter, Jr.

● Celestine Chaney

● Roberta A. Drury

● Andre Mackniel

● Katherine Massey

● Margus D. Morrison

● Heyward Patterson

● Geraldine Talley

● Ruth Whitfield

● Pearl Young

We know also that those who survived – Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington and Christopher Braden – will forever live with the terror and the wounds they endured, both physical and mental. They have had to find some way to put their lives back together and move forward, resuming daily responsibilities and the routines of work and family. Surely, this day and every May 14th to come will haunt them, even as it is also an occasion for them to give thanks that they were spared when so many others who happened to be in the same place and at the same time were not.

Having lived through defining events like we experienced here in Buffalo, we want to believe that we’ve learned something, that the underlying causes which allowed for such trauma have been identified, rooted out and eliminated; that indeed, what we experienced – and all that was taken from us – can never happen again to us or others. Sadly, we know that’s not the case.

What we did learn and experience was that there is an abundance of goodness – deep care and concern – that exists in our community. We experienced a tremendous outpouring of shared grief and a coming together of friends and strangers alike to provide comfort to loved ones left behind and to assert that this is not who we are. We experienced the resolve of an entire community to somehow bind the wounds that we know will never fully heal, but which we hope will become just a little less painful with the passage of time.

Faith – we hope and expect – should enable us to make sense of the senseless and to put in perspective tragedies both personal and collective. Often, however, we find that this is not the case. There is no adequate explanation, nor are we ever truly satisfied with often-repeated assurances that God is with us, that His love conquers all, that our sorrow will eventually be turned to joy. What our faith does enable is our ability to make things better – to stand against and call out attitudes and acts of racism and bias however blatant or subtle; to demand equity and justice for those whose neighborhoods and communities that have long been neglected and for whom basic needs and privileges are delayed and denied: affordable and quality housing, good schools, job opportunities, access to health care, and amenities that are essential to quality of life.

And so, on this day that is a cause for so much sorrow and regret, we rightly pause to recall and remember. Together, we must not only consider the tragedy we’ve endured and all that we’ve lost, but also consider what we can do to honor and enliven the memory of those taken from us. Without question, this was an episode of immense tragedy, but can it also be one that inspires us to, indeed, make things better, to accomplish greater good and create the conditions for true hope not just for ourselves, but for those who need it most?

We appeal to our loving, merciful and just God to give us the courage to act on our best intentions and demonstrate through our words and actions that our faith in Him is true. May the cherished souls of those we remember on this sad day forever rest in the presence and peace of the Lord, who comforts the living in their sorrow and heals the broken hearted.

God bless you and all of our community in the work that must continue.