Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

CNS photo/Mario Anzuoni, Reuters
An attendee weeps during a candlelight vigil in San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 3 for the victims of a mass shooting the previous day at the Inland Regional Center. At least 14 people were killed when gunmen opened fire during a function at a center for people with developmental disabilities.


San Bernardino bishop urges prayers for unity, healing after shootings

By MIKE NELSON, Catholic News Service | Published December 10, 2015

OXNARD, Calif. (CNS)— Bishop R. Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino took part in a candlelight vigil Dec. 3 at San Manuel Stadium to mourn the 14 people who were killed in a mass assault Dec. 2 that has been identified as an act of terrorism by the FBI.

During the service, the names of the 14 people who were killed were read aloud. At least two of those killed are part of the local Catholic community.

Damian Meins, 58, married to a Catholic school principal and the father of two girls, worked in the public health department in San Bernardino. Bennetta Betbadal, married and the mother of three children, was a health inspector who was at the building that day to give a presentation.

The Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities, was the site where county health officials were having an employee Christmas party.

It became a murder scene, with 14 people killed and 21 more wounded, several critically, by two suspects armed with assault weapons—later identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27. The two were killed by police four hours later in a shootout about two miles from the social services center.

Farook, who worked as a San Bernardino county environmental inspector, had initially attended the holiday party and left, returning with Malik, masked and wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, according to news reports. The majority of those killed and wounded were co-workers and county employees.

The home of Farook and Malik was discovered to hold large quantities of ammunition and bomb-making materials. Federal law enforcement officials told The New York Times Dec. 4 that Farook’s wife, Malik, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook posting. The FBI announced Dec. 4 that it is officially investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism.

In a statement Dec. 2, Bishop Barnes urged people to pray for unity and healing after the mass shooting.

“For those who lost their lives, we pray for their eternal rest and God’s strength to their loved ones left behind; for those who are wounded, we pray for their health and healing,” he said.

The bishop called on people to pray for “all of the victims of this horrific incident and their families” and also asked for prayers for law enforcement officers.

“Our community of San Bernardino has faced great challenges through the years. Let us come together now in unity to bring light to the darkness of this day,” Bishop Barnes said.

Living rosary held for family of Catholic health official who died

The names of those killed did not begin to become public until Dec. 3.

Meins was described by a friend to The Associated Press as someone who “never strayed far from his church or its teachings.” He attended Notre Dame High School in Riverside where he met his wife, Trenna, who is principal of Sacred Heart School in Rancho Cucamonga.

“His death has affected our community deeply. He will be missed,” Notre Dame’s principal said in a message on the school’s website.

On the Facebook page of Sacred Heart School, the pastor, Father Benedict Nwachukwu-Udaku, said the parish and school community would be having a special prayer vigil Dec. 5 to pray for all of the shooting victims.

“May all who have been touched by this mayhem know God’s presence and God’s consolation,” he added

A living rosary for the Meins family was held Dec. 3.

The California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health also has requested that all environmental health managers and staff in the state observe a moment of silence for Meins Dec. 9 at 11 a.m.

Another Catholic among 14 victims was native of Iran who fled to U.S.

Betbadal, another victim from the Catholic community, was born in Iran in 1969. According to a fundraising page set up for her children, she fled to the United States when she was 18 to escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians following the Iranian Revolution. She and her husband, both Catholic, and their children lived in Rialto.

“She loved her job, her community, and her country,” the fundraising page says. “Her greatest love, however, was for her husband, her children, and her large extended family.”

On Dec. 2 the San Bernardino diocesan pastoral center, which is a few miles from the Inland Regional Center, was on lockdown until about 2 p.m. when employees were escorted out and told to go home. The center was closed Dec. 3.

The diocesan Department of Life, Dignity and Justice had previously scheduled an evening vigil Dec. 5 for victims of violence at Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga, in the western portion of the diocese that includes San Bernardino and Riverside counties. More plans for prayer liturgies and Catholic community outreach will be discussed at a Dec. 7 meeting.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in a Dec. 3 statement that it is “hard to understand this kind of violence and the hatred that motivates it. We ask how people can do such things, what is in their hearts? In these times, we need to trust in the providence of God and rely on his mercy.”

“Our Christian faith tells us that we must overcome evil with good and respond to hatred with love. So this is our challenge in the days ahead,” he added.

The archbishop said the Los Angeles Archdiocese mourns with the families and loved ones of victims and prays for healing for the wounded.

“We ask that God give his wisdom and prudence to the public authorities and law enforcement officials who are seeking to make sense of this horrible crime. And we pray for the conversion of hearts that are hardened by hatred,” he said.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said “each innocent life lost” in the shooting was precious. “Each was intimately connected through family and friendship to many others, who now survive them and bear a burden of unearned suffering.”

The archbishop, in a Dec. 3 statement, added: “Pursuing justice in this matter is in the hands of law enforcement. Our task as Christians is to pray for those persons whose lives were ended by the inexcusable cruelty of others.”

Contributing to this story was Carol Zimmermann in Washington.