Oakland Catholics offer prayers, support for fire victims
December 13th, 2016
By Catholic News Service
OAKLAND – The local Catholic community in Oakland – parishioners, priests, school students and Catholic Charities’ workers – have been offering prayers and support for victims of the Dec. 2 fire that erupted in an Oakland warehouse, killing 36.
The fire started during a dance party at a warehouse that had been converted to artists’ studios and illegal living spaces, dubbed the “Ghost Ship.” The cause of the fire, reported to be the most lethal building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade, has not been determined.
Among the Catholic groups to offer prayers for the fire victims were participants in an annual pilgrimage in Oakland honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Early in the morning of Dec. 3, Hector Medina, coordinator for Latino ministries, learned that the planned route would have to be modified in the aftermath of the fire. The pilgrimage, with the good weather, was larger than expected, with more dance groups and floats than usual.
Once the pilgrimage reached the Cathedral of Christ the Light, prayers for those lost in the fire – at that time, the number was unknown – were offered during Mass.
Each Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4 began with a moment of silence for the victims of the fire, said Father James Matthews, the cathedral’s rector.
After the fire, Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Oakland and chaplain to the Oakland Police and Fire departments, was assisting family members. He was seen in numerous news television clips walking into the family assistance center the city set up for those awaiting word on their loved ones.
In a Facebook post three days later, Father Landeza acknowledged the work of his fellow chaplains “whose ministry it has been to walk closely with the families and friends of the fire victims here in Oakland.”
On Dec. 5, hundreds attended a vigil at Oakland’s Lake Merritt for those who died in the fire. Just before the vigil, a few handfuls of people – alone or in small groups – came to the Cathedral of Christ the Light for quiet prayer.
Once the recovery efforts at the fire site have been completed, the cathedral will host an interfaith prayer service for the victims and first-responders, Father Matthews said.
From December 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.