By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Hours after 14 people were killed in a mass shooting in California Dec. 2 and as Louisville’s annual death toll continues to grow, about 100 people, including Chief of Police Steve Conrad, gathered at Christ the King Church at 44th Street and West Broadway to pray for victims of violence.
“Most everyone I talk to agrees, at least 75 percent of their conversation is about the dramatic increase in violence, both national and local,” said Father John Judie, pastor of Christ the King, after the “Service of Remembrance.”
“It feels like it’s getting closer and closer to home,” he said. “As a community of faith, we felt we should do something to respond in faith.”
The somber service was organized by the six Catholic parishes in West Louisville — Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. William, St. Martin de Porres, Good Shepherd and St. Augustine churches.
As incense burned in front of the church’s altar, representatives from each parish called out the names of the 78 people who, as of Dec. 2, have been killed violently in Louisville this year. The parishes have divided the names between them and each has pledged to hold the names in prayer at Sunday Masses through Feb. 7. White crosses bearing the names of the victims also have been placed on the parish lawns.
Elgina Smith, the mother of 18-year-old Anthony Smith Jr. who was killed in February, attended the service and said afterward that she appreciated it.
“Hearing that someone is praying for him,” she said, “it was soothing. This is our first holiday without him.”
She took home a votive candle, provided at the service, dedicated to her son’s memory.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad spoke at the end of the service and told the congregants that there were more than 4,000 violent crimes in Louisville this year. He said he prays every morning for the victims and their families and then he called the congregation to action.
“We are obligated as a community to address the root cause,” Conrad said. “To do that we’ve got to come together; we’ve got to watch out for one another.”
He urged his listeners to check on their neighbors and respond to people in need. “We have an opportunity each day to be the Good Samaritan.”
Conrad also told his listeners they must trust one another and act with civility and compassion.
Kim Mapp, a member of St. Martin de Porres who took part in the service, echoed the chief’s message.
“We talk about, “lives matter” — black lives, all lives,” she said. “The gun violence has to stop.
“Until it hits home you don’t talk about it,” Mapp said, noting that a family in her parish lost a son to gun violence. “But until we all come together and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ the violence will continue.”
Sharan Benton, pastoral administrator of St. William Church, said the service helped make the deaths of the victims more “real.”
“We come together as a community to grieve those who have died violently and to hear their names,” she said, noting that she was acquainted with one of those victims named at the service. “I pray for the day it will be no more.”
The evening included Scripture readings, hymns and prayers and an affirmation of hope.