Hundreds seek comfort together at Mass following Highland Park shooting

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Hundreds seek comfort together at Mass following Highland Park shooting

Cardinal Cupich celebrated a bilingual Mass of Peace and Healing with Bishop Jeffrey Grob, Bishop George Rassas and many archdiocesan priests from area parishes on July 5, 2022, at Immaculate Conception Church in Highland Park. The church is located around the corner from the site of a mass shooting during the Fourth of July parade. Father Hernan Cuevas, pastor at Immaculate Conception, also led a prayer for healing of their community at the end of Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Christian Shiu, chaplain at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, greets a worshipper attending the Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
From left, Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines; Father Radley Alacantara, associate pastor of the Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest; Father Ismael Garcia Sainz, associate pastor of St. Norbert-Our Lady of the Brook; Father Christian Shiu, chaplain at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein and another Father Steve Lanza of Divine Mercy Parish stand during Mass. Several priests joined Cardinal Cupich and the people for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
It was standing room only for the Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
The cantor prompts the congregation to join in singing. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
A family takes part in Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Cardinal Cupich prays as Auxiliary Bishop Jeff Grob, vicar of Vicariate I, which includes Highland Park, holds the book. To the cardinal's left is retired Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas, a former vicar for Vicariate I. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
People pack the church for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Cardinal Cupich delivers the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
People listen to the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Deacons join Father Hernan Cuevas, pastor, Cardinal Cupich and the bishops on the altar. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Deacon Louie Vignocchi assists Cardinal Cupich at the altar. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
A woman prays during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman prays during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Ismael Garcia Sainz, associate pastor of St. Norbert-Our Lady of the Brook, prays during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Hernan Cuevas, pastor, leads a prayer for healing of their community at the end of Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Hundreds of people gathered the evening of July 5 at Immaculate Conception Church in Highland Park to offer one another comfort and grieve together in the wake of the mass shooting that killed seven people and injured dozens more at the community’s Independence Day parade.

Immaculate Conception-St. James Parish, which counts two of its members among the dead, is headquartered at the church less than a half-mile from the shooting site.

The parish also held a holy hour July 7 and a procession July 9 from Immaculate Conception Church to the area where the shooting  occured.

Cardinal Cupich, who celebrated the July 5 Mass, said the Gospel reading from Matthew about Jesus healing the woman with the hemorrhage and raising a little girl from the dead highlights the healing power of grace. (Watch homily)

It was the same Gospel reading that was proclaimed in churches on the morning of July 4, when the shooting shattered the peace of the suburban community.

“It is striking how the healings come in such simple, uncomplicated ways,” Cardinal Cupich said. “The touch of Jesus’ cloak and a comforting word to the woman; the taking of the little girl’s hand and lifting her up from her sick bed. These scenes remind us that God’s grace most often comes in simple and very natural human actions.”

Such actions include coming together to pray for the dead, those who loved them, the wounded and everyone who was there, as well as emergency personnel, medical workers and civic leaders who responded to the shooting.

The cardinal told the story of a young boy who sat with an elderly, widowed neighbor. When the child’s mother asked what he had said to the grieving man, the child said he hadn’t said anything; he only helped the man cry.

“God’s comforting grace comes in such simple gestures,” he said. “We have no words to make sense of this senseless tragedy. We are here just to help each other cry, to lift up each other by the hand, to let other’s touch us with their suffering and pain.”

The cardinal also called on government leaders to restrict access to high-powered firearms like the rife used in the July 4 massacre.

“Yesterday, citizens of Highland Park took pride in being Americans, Americans who just wanted to celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday,” Cardinal Cupich said. “Yet, instead of families marching in a parade, parents were force to cradle their children in their arms and flee violence in the streets. Instead of fireworks, rapid gun fire filled the air. Instead of a celebration of freedom and liberty, people were victimized by our nation’s enslavement to guns. Instead of a day to celebrate peace and freedom, a weapon of war and terror ruled the day.”

Restricting such weapons should be a simple decision, the cardinal said, drawing applause from the congregation.

“We cannot allow the debate over securing society’s safety through reasonable laws that govern the possession of firearms to become overly complicated,” he said. “We should not make this so difficult. Whatever one makes of the right to bear arms, it should not paralyze us from enacting serious, broadly popular gun-safety measures. The right to bear arms does not eclipse the right to life, or the right of all Americans to go about their lives free of the fear that they might be shredded by bullets from weapons of war at any moment. Gun violence is a life issue, and high-powered weapons have no place on our streets.”

The cardinal read from a telegram he received from Pope Francis the morning of July 5, expressing the pope’s “spiritual closeness” to all those affected by the attack.

“Let our prayer be that of Pope Francis, who sent us his message of support this morning: ‘With unwavering faith that the grace of God is able to convert even the hardest of hearts, making it possible to depart from evil and do good, may every member of society reject violence in all of its forms and respect life in all of its stages,’” the cardinal said.

After the Mass, Cardinal Cupich reminded members of the media that Pope Francis had also written to him in 2016 about the scourge of gun violence, and that it is a topic the cardinal and the pope have discussed at length.

Cardinal Cupich also commended Father Hernan Cuevas, pastor of the newly united Immaculate Conception-St. James Parish, for his response and for his hospitality, offering the cardinal the opportunity to celebrate Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Jefferey Grob and retired Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas, along with priests from all over the archdiocese who came to offer support.

Cuevas became pastor on July 1, the same day Immaculate Conception in Highland Park and St. James in Highwood became one parish.

He was on a float celebrating the new parish, with an image of the Blessed Mother on one side and St. James on the other, waiting to turn on to the main parade route, when he heard the shots.

“We were so excited to show that our new parish was ready to serve the community at large,” Cuevas said.

But then a gunman opened fire from a rooftop a few blocks from where the float was waiting, and then people came running “like a wave,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas and others on the float parked it in the church lot, less than a half-mile from the site of the shooting, and sheltered in the church and prayed the rosary, he said.

“I do believe that in moments like this, the community relies on the love of God,” he said.


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  • mass shooting

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