Bishop, mayor speak on first anniversary of Tops shooting
As the first year anniversary of the Tops shooting came to pass, Bishop Michael W. Fisher celebrated a commemorative Mass at St. Martin de Porres Church on Northampton Street on Buffalo’s East Side.
After thanking Family of Parishes pastor Father Joseph Rogliano for serving as host and acknowledging Father Ronald Sajdak, vicar forane of Buffalo, for assisting in celebrating the Mass, the bishop took on the challenging task of trying to place the day in perspective.
“Today is truly a bittersweet day, because it is joyful celebrating our mothers,” Bishop Fisher explained. “Blessed to have these wonderful women in our lives, they teach us, nurture us, and show us the way. We give thanks for the beauty of their lives as mothers and wives and people who lead us in the community.”
“But today is also a difficult day, because a year ago, we lost so many of our brothers and sisters, not far from this location. This day marks a day when someone motivated by hate and racism for our Black brothers and sisters came to our beloved community here in Buffalo and with murder in his heart, took the life of 10 of our brothers and sisters, wounded three and shattered the lives of other good people who only wanted to shop at the grocery store and provide for their families.”
“But first we must speak to the truth of the matter, it was an act of hate and an act of racism motivated by white supremacy. This weekend as we remember our mothers, we are reminded by those who were lost last year, who were mothers and grandmothers who will not be with their families this day. We pray for them and are with them.”
He continued, “As I said last year from the very pulpit, this can never happen again. In truth, sadly we gather at this celebration knowing that this has happened again and will continue to happen again and again and again until we get serious about systematic racism, gun violence and have a frank and honest discussion about how we treat one another with equity and equality.
“Black and white, yellow and red and brown. We also need frank and honest discussions in our conversations about race and the insidious nature of this sin in the history of our country and in our lives and in our own families.
“The bright spot is the hope for what we can celebrate in how Buffalo has come together to reflect, to heal, and to hope. This is where we as church have much to offer because this is what we are supposed to be all about. Amen.
“We have much to say and to offer as a people of faith at church. My brothers and sisters, as church we also called to speak to truth and you seek that out and challenge our world to others. This is the mission that Jesus left his apostles and us. Are we able to facilitate that kind of conversation and frank discussion. Are we able to be advocates? In 2018, the (United States Conference of Catholic) bishops addressed this evil of racism in a pastoral letter ‘Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.’
“The evil of racism we are told festers in part because as a nation there is very limited formal acknowledgement of the harm done to so many, no moment of atonement, no national process of reconciliation and all too often a neglect of our history. Racism is defined in the statement as a conscious or unconscious belief in racial superiority acts that violate justice and an ignorance of the fundamental truth that all are created equal in God’s image.
“Racism then does not only reside within our hearts, but also in our structures in our culture and institutions therefore justice is required for when we must put our world into that right relationship with God, one another, and creation. To do this, the bishops call for an acknowledgement of the history of violence done to our brothers and sisters for too many good and faithful Catholics remain unaware of the connection of institutional racism and the continual erosion of the sanctity of life.
“We have never sufficiently contended with the impact of overt racism, nor have we spent the necessary time to understand the racist attitudes of yesterday that have become a permanent part of our perceptions, practices and policies of today, or they have been enshrined in our social, political and economic structures. To rebuild relationships broken by centuries of oppressive acts of racism requires us to love goodness, and to walk humbly with the Lord.”
The bishop then pointed toward Catholic Social Teaching as a way to approach conversations about race. Key points include knowing that the sacredness and sanctity of all life frame us as a society; we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers responsible for those affected by violence and hate; and the need to empower the local community.
St. Joseph Cathedral, following its 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, hosted an hour of prayer to remember the victims of the May 14 shooting. Later in the afternoon, Bishop Fisher attended a memorial ceremony held in the parking lot of the Jefferson Avenue Tops store. He was one of several representatives of the Diocese of Buffalo in attendance to lend their spiritual support, and to listen.
“In the days, weeks and months since the mass shooting, Buffalonians and Western New Yorkers came together in amazing ways, lifted each other up, supported each other in our grief and showed the world why we are known as the City of Good Neighbors, the way this community came together,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, who led the ceremony and later read the names of each victim before a bell rang ten times for the deceased.
Mayor Brown’s comments included a direct message to the families of the victims, and to the survivors and their families.
“The way you have stood up, spoken up, the way you have represented your families, yourselves, our community has been nothing short of amazing,” Brown said. “I consider all of you heroes.”
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting.