Prayer service recalls lives, love, legacy of 6 workers who perished in bridge collapse

BALTIMORE (OSV News) -- A large congregation attended a prayer service and vigil April 8 at Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Church in Baltimore to accompany those who lost their loved ones in the March 26 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, in which six Hispanic workers perished.

During the bilingual prayer service, the flags of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- their countries of origin -- were placed in the sanctuary next to the flags of the Holy See and the United States.

"We've seen, since the tragedy occurred, the family of faith really coming together in a beautiful way," Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet. "Certainly, this parish, certainly Catholic Charities, the Apostleship of the Sea, the Knights of Columbus are offering assistance as well.

"I think it's not just the material assistance; it's the spiritual assistance. It's the accompaniment because these wives and moms and children have lost their husbands and fathers in the most tragic way, and we just have to surround them with love," the archbishop said.

Redemptorist Father Ako Walker, pastor of Sacred Heart who has been accompanying the families hit by this immeasurable loss, said, "We have to have confidence and hope knowing the presence of Jesus in all this. There are questions and uncertainty, but we have faith and hope, and we know perfectly well that Jesus never abandons us; we have to walk in our lives trusting in his presence."

Along with youths and families with children, the solemn service was attended by Lora Hargrove, Maryland's interfaith outreach director, and Democratic Gov. Wes Moore. Hargrove recalled, one by one, the names of Miguel Luna, Maynor Suazo Sandoval, Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, Jose Mynor Lopez, Carlos Hernandez and Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes.

"This is a tremendous loss for the families of their six loved ones. We will not forget the impact of their lives on their own families within the Hispanic community, on the Baltimore community at large, and on the state of Maryland. Alejandro, Jose, Dorlian, Miguel, Maynor and Carlos will not be forgotten," she said.

"They were not just hard workers; they were devoted husbands, loving fathers, caring brothers and supportive uncles. We have come tonight to thank God for their lives, their love and their legacies that will remain forever in our hearts," Hargrove said.

During the prayer service, songs in English and Spanish contrasted with six minutes of silence in memory of each of the victims.

At the close of the prayer service, Archbishop Lori stated that "a tragedy, such as our community has experienced often has a twofold effect."

"First, of course, we were shocked and dismayed, and we struggled to come to terms with what happened," he said. "But once that begins to settle, often another effect rises up. We band together. Tragedy can shake us out of our ways.

"We're used to seeing things or doing things. It can make you and me shift our gaze, helping us to pay attention to the things that really matter, prompting us to let go of the little things that often consume our lives, moving our hearts to see the needs of those who are suffering in our very midst.""When this happens, we get a glimpse of how God's grace is at work in our world, making possible their redemption of even the most terrible of events," he continued. "This doesn't take away our pain, nor does it ... answer all of our questions. But it does fill us with a deeper sense of hope. The light is not meaningless then, even if we cannot see it now, and even through the pain we are going through."Archbishop Lori noted the prayer service was taking place on the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "remembering a moment that would change the course of human history, the moment when the word through whom all things were made."

"Jesus Christ took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and came to dwell among us. Gathered tonight is a family of faith, a family of mourning," he said. At the conclusion of the service, he said, "God is here with us. God has made a dwelling among us even in our deepest darkness. God is there to be with us, so we fear no evil because he is with us. And not only is he with us, he truly knows us. He loves us."Afterward, the vigil began with a walk along the streets surrounding the church. Those gathered, each with a lit candle, made six stops to remember these family men who lost their lives while doing their work. Carlos Sauzo Sandoval, brother of fallen bridge crewman Maynor Suazo Sandoval, was among family members who participated. He received the personal condolences of Archbishop Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski.The pilgrimage was led by several volunteers who carried on their shoulders a platform with six wooden crosses covered with reflective vests, with the flag of the country of origin and their names in front of each cross.The religious music that filled the air and the passing of the pilgrims walking with their lit candles beckoned neighbors to their doors and windows to observe the vigil.

Delmy Ramos, a Catholic who participated in the prayer service and vigil, lives three blocks from the bridge.

"It has been very sad," he said, adding, "We Hispanics are accompanying the grieving families and praying for them, too, because they died fixing the bridge so that we could pass safely. May God receive them with his open arms."- - - Marietha Góngora V. writes for the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.