Local community responds to Orlando shooting

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, June 26, 2016

Local community responds to Orlando shooting

Archbishop Cupich's letter to the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach community regarding the Orlando massacre is posted on a pillar Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. AGLO celebrates its weekly Mass at the church. The community read the archbishop’s letter at Mass June 12, the day of the Orlando shooting. AGLO began in 1988 to extend the church’s pastoral outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
From left, Bob McHugh, Steve, Engles and Alan Szafraniec lead the procession for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Dan Nickel leads the congregation in the Responsorial Psalm. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
A memorial featuring the photos of the victims of the Orlando shooting stood before the altar. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Ted Wiecek, AGLO secretary, reads the names of the Orlando victims during the prayers of the faithful at the community’s regular Sunday Mass on June 19. As the names of the victims were read candles were lit before a memorial bearing a photo of each of the dead. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Steve Engles, co-director of AGLO, lights candles at the memorial while the names of the Orlando victims are read out loud. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Bob McHugh embraces a priest during the sign of peace. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Jaeynes Childers and Maria Balata hold hands during the recessional song at Mass June 19. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
After Mass, participants took photos of and prayed before a memorial to the victims of the Orlando shooting. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

When members of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach gathered the evening of June 19 for their  regular weekly Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave., they had in as their focus the victims of the mass shooting June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The mass shooting left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and more than 50 others wounded.

A memorial to the dead stood in front of the altar with photos of the victims. During the prayers of the faithful at Mass, the names and ages of victims were read while candles were lit for each person. After Mass many people went up to the altar to pray before the memorial and to take photos.

AGLO began in 1988 as a way to extend the church’s pastoral outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics throughout the archdiocese. In addition to holding service projects in the community and social events, the community meets each Sunday at 7 p.m. for Mass.

At Mass June 12, the day of the Orlando shooting, a letter to AGLO from Archbishop Cupich was read. The letter was posted on the group’s website ( and on a pillar outside of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy next door to the church.

“For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you,” the letter read. “Let our shared grief and our common faith in Jesus, who called the persecuted blessed, unite us so that hatred and intolerance are not allowed to flourish, so that those who suffer mental illness know the support of a compassionate society, so that we find the courage to face forthrightly the falsehood that weapons of combat belong anywhere in the civilian population.”

Earlier that day, Archbishop Cupich also released a statement to the public.

“Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” the statement read. “The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

AGLO co-director Steve Engles said the community valued Archbishop Cupich reaching out to them and doing so the same day as the shooting.

“The archbishop made it very clear that he stands with us. We’re extremely appreciative of the support he expressed for not only the members of AGLO and the victims in Orlando but also the community at large,” said Engles.

Leaning on the faith can help people through grieving tragedies, which is something the AGLO community understands.

“It’s a regular group of people who come here every Sunday. People are here not out of a sense of duty or obligation. They are here because they want to be here,” Engles said. “It is a source of comfort to people.”

AGLO outreach director Joe Vitek agreed.

“Our faith is a difficult one if we want to walk in the steps of Jesus. He calls us to carry a cross. Especially in the Catholic gay and lesbian community we’re always fighting to be a part of the faith to show that we are a part of the church,” said Vitek. “What I saw tonight was our church embracing us and helping us carry that cross together.”


  • gun violence
  • peace
  • our lady of mount carmel
  • non-violence
  • aglo

Related Articles