The first funereal farewell for the victims of the recent Monterey Park mass shooting is currently underway.
Family, friends and other mourners filled the pews of St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church — a midcentury parish whose campanile dominates the strip-mall skyline not far from the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where a gunman killed 11 and wounded nine others — to remember the life of Valentino Alvero on Friday morning, Feb. 3.
The Mass, is being presided over by parish pastor Rev. Joseph Magdaong and Rev. Leo Ortega, is the first major public funeral for one of the victims, nearly two weeks after the mass shooting rent Monterey Park. St. Stephen Martyr, which has a sizable Asian American congregation, has become the central gathering place Catholics in the community, having also hosted a special Mass for all 11 victims last week.
Complete coverage: Monterey Park Mass Shooting
Magdaong was set to read a message from Pope Francis during the Mass.
“His Holiness joins the entire community in commending the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved,” that message, from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez in a telegam last week. “As a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing.”
The community has spent the last couple of weeks trying to begin the healing process. But the pain still seres. The grief remains raw.
Yet, while the entire Monterey Park community — and, indeed, all of Southern California — is still grieving for all of the victims, with other funerals certainly coming together over the coming weeks, Friday’s Mass was about Alvero.
Alvero, 68, was a man who loved ballroom dancing. He loved his famly. He loved his community.
And he was the “life of any party,” his family wrote in a statement.
“He was a loving father,” the statement added, “a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three nieces and nephews like his own children.”
Folks began gathering at St. Stephen church — whose namesake was martryed during a violent attack — early Friday morning, dressed in funeral black.
A small group milled about outside the entrance under a gloomy mourning sky. The church’s grand entryway was adorned with golden crosses, 10 funeral sprays and a portrait of Alvero depicting how he was in life: Joyous and smiling.
As loved ones trickled into the church for the service, a group of six pallbearers donning pristine white gloves guarded the entrance – giving somber smiles and nods of acknowledgment to those on their way inside.
Inside the dimly lit church, some mourners also gathered in small groups, chatting among themselves, while a few others sat quietly in the pews waiting for the service to begin.
Magdaong and Ortega also made the rounds before the service began — offering hugs and brief conversation to those in need.
The Mass began at 10 a.m. Friday. Close to 100 people, from elders to small children, sat in the pews and watched as the pallbearers carried Alvero’s casket into the church, down the aisle and to the sanctuary, near the altar.
“It is a difficult time and we try to make sense of tragedy that happens,” Ortega said during the Mass. “But in the Eucharist, we are comforted and given a new promise that death does not have the final say to our story.”
Alvero was a devout Catholic, his family said. They called it a “great travesty” that he didn’t receive his last rites, a sacrament administered before death. The family also asked for Alvero’s fellow Catholics to pray for him.
“Our family would like to request all priests and Catholics to pray for him by name, Valentino Marcos Alvero,” the family wrote. “He was a faithful servant of God and we know that he would want the world to lift his family in prayer more than anything.”
This story is breaking and will be updated.
Source: Orange County Register
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