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The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Grievance Ministry responds to the mass shooting in Brooklyn


The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s bereavement ministry is working to help families affected by the July 2 mass shooting in Brooklyn’s South Baltimore community that claimed the lives of 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi and 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez . Twenty-eight other people were injured in the shooting, which happened at a “Brooklyn Day” block party.

The Grievance Ministry, established in 2021, is a partnership between the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Baltimore Police Department, and Roberta’s House, a family bereavement center that supports long-term families.

According to Yvonne Wenger, director of community affairs for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the overarching goal of grief ministry is to build a coalition for peace and channel hope to communities.

A police officer secures crime scene tape to a pole after a mass shooting at the scene of a 4th of July holiday weekend block party in Baltimore on July 2, 2023, in a still image from video . Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore asked for prayers for the victims after the mass shooting left two dead and injured more than two dozen others, most of whom were teenagers. (photo OSV News/Reuters)

The bereavement ministry coordinates with a unit of Homicide Victim Advocates who work for the Baltimore Police Department to provide care packages to families of homicide victims. Advocates learn more about families and make specific demands. According to Wenger, 50% of care packages go to mothers of homicide victims.

“Care programs go a long way to helping families impacted by violence and building bridges between law enforcement and communities,” Wenger said.

Care packages typically include groceries and gift cards for necessities. Sometimes victims live in hotels because their home is a crime scene. They may need toiletries, laundry detergent, diapers, and comforts such as soft blankets or other items for the children in the family. Volunteers also include a handwritten note of sympathy.

“What advocates are communicating is that families are so moved by our care packages,” Wenger said. “We have a fresh produce component that sets us apart. We provide things such as milk, cold cuts, fresh bread and fresh vegetables to make a salad. Families appreciate that. »

The bereavement ministry is currently working with advocates to determine the needs of Brooklyn families and will coordinate efforts with parishes, including St. Rose of Lima, located in the community.

Since the bereavement ministry was established in 2021, Wenger said the group has helped about 350 families, including more than 1,200 individuals. As of July 6, there have been 145 homicides in the city of Baltimore in 2023.

In addition to the work of the bereavement ministry, the archdiocese has scheduled a gun buy-back and resource fair scheduled for Aug. 5 at a location to be determined in West Baltimore.

The gun buy-back event is presented by the Parish of St. Joseph’s Monastery in Irvington and the Baltimore Police Department, in association with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Catholic Charities and the First and Franklin. It’s a no-questions-asked, safe and anonymous way to turn in firearms, whether legal or illegal.

After the mass shooting in Brooklyn, Bishop Lori said in a July 2 statement, “Ask our Lord to bring peace and comfort to families whose lives are forever changed and ask Him to bring healing. to the community. Lord, bring us independence and deliverance from the grip of violence on our culture.

The Archbishop, who also prayed for the victims during the July 2 Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in the homeland, added that together, “with the grace of God, we can work to create a future where no one wakes up to the news of another mass shooting. It’s possible.”

Archbishop Lori urged people as they prayed to “consider ways in which we might be called to action. Consider how we can all support neighborhood and community efforts to end violence on our streets,” he said.

He said the Archdiocese of Baltimore, like the Catholic Church has done in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, recognizes “the pain caused by gun violence.” He encouraged participation in the arms buyback.

Wenger acknowledged that gun buy-back is not a solution to violence, but “a direct response to Pope Francis’ call to take guns out of circulation.”

Firearms collected in the buyout can no longer be used in cases of suicide, domestic violence, home invasion or other crimes, she said.

“God has the potential to inspire and inspire repeat offenders to surrender,” she said.

Father Michael Murphy, parish pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery in Baltimore, said there were people on both sides of the argument about the effectiveness of gun buy-backs, “but at the end of the day account, even a gun or two on the street can save someone’s life.”

“There have been more and more shootings, and this loss of life and the accessibility of firearms – especially among our young people – is concerning,” Father Murphy said.

Catholic Charities, which runs a Safe Streets campaign to promote nonviolence, had four Safe Streets Brooklyn staffers turn up at the Brooklyn Day event after 9 p.m., after covering other areas of the community more early in their shift.

“Upon their arrival, there were opportunities to intervene in a few minor conflicts — none directly involving firearms,” Catholic Charities said in a July 6 statement. “Several family members of our staff attended this traditionally family event as they are residents of the community. At the end of their shift at 11:00 p.m., our staff members left the event at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Once Safe Stree staff heard of the shooting, “they immediately returned to the scene, staying put” or to hospitals where victims, including their loved ones, were treated until 5 a.m. morning, Catholic Charities said. “The team returned to the scene at 10 a.m. the following morning to continue supporting the community.”

“Catholic Charities is proud of its team members in Brooklyn,” said Catholic Charities. “They, like so many others, including their own families, have been directly affected, hurt and traumatized by this event. We will continue to surround our Safe Streets teams with support so they can continue to do the work that helps them. passionate about reducing gun violence in the city they know and call home.

The Baltimore Police Department is currently investigating the July 2 shooting and a $28,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to an arrest.

Members of the police joined Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Councilwoman Phylicia Porter and city agency leaders for a community march to Brooklyn Homes on July 6 as part of the office neighborhood stabilization response from the Mayor of Baltimore for neighborhood safety and engagement.

If you are interested in helping families or volunteering with the bereavement ministry, contact Yvonne Wenger at Yvonne.Wenger@archbalt.org or 410-547-3158. Donations to support the arms buyback event are also accepted at the parish office of St. Joseph’s Monastery. Surplus funds will support the efforts of the bereavement ministry.

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