I was sorting through papers as part of a new year’s resolution – to clean some of the clutter that has accumulated. I came across a bunch of letters from kids requesting confirmation back in 2003 – one of them made me stop suddenly. It was written by one of the 14 year olds and a line of what he wrote struck me, “I want to be confirmed because I can finally tell [a priest] something I did and he ain’t going to tell nothing to no one.” I remember this young man – he was involved in our programs of mentoring, had a friendly disposition and always had a smile on his face. Of course, I don’t remember him confessing, but I wish I had paid more attention to the letter. He was shot and killed early in the morning just this past December on the last day of the month. …another tragic loss of life in our neighborhood.
During the New Year’s Eve parish dance, the 9th District Police Commander stopped by to say hello and express his sadness at the death. He said, “I can’t understand why such senseless killing happens.” I appreciated his expressions of sympathy. It is hard to know what to do with loss, much less understand it. With the grieving, anger and frustration, a certain fear can even set in. Parents, family and friends can feel paralyzed and not know how to respond.
Over the years, I have felt fortunate to know those who experience such loss. Those with reflective skills, those who gather the community around them, – they find a certain resolve to respond with understanding, or at least seek out understanding. In this journey, they end up giving more to others than perhaps they could imagine. They serve others and sometimes become leaders or role models. They often use the power of their memory to guide others with wisdom and a deeper understanding of life and how we must be a people of hope.
We buried this young man, Efren Madrigal, age 23, on January 5th. I know there are more children who, like him, will be writing letters soon asking for confirmation. I want to pay more attention to those letters this year. That will be for me the more important New Year’s resolution.
Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF