June 16, 2006

Hundreds turn out at funeral to support murder victims’ families

By Mike Krokos

Gently sobbing, Sandra Bergara wiped her face several times as she watched attendants wheel the six caskets out of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on June 7.

As the mother of two children, ages 7 and 5, Bergara tried hard to comprehend the grief of the victims’ families.

“I’m here to support them,” said the member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis.

She wasn’t alone.

Although Bergara didn’t know the seven people—including three children— murdered on June 1 in the worst mass killing in Indianapolis history, she was among the more than 630 people who felt compelled to pack the cathedral.

She wanted to attend the bilingual Mass of the Resurrection for 46-year-old Emma Valdez; her two youngest sons, Alberto Covarrubias, 11, and David Covarubbias, 8; Valdez’s two children from a previous marriage, Magno Albarran, 29, and Flora Albarran, 22; and Flora’s 5-year-old son, Luis Albarran. The funeral Mass for the seventh victim, Alberto Covarrubias Sr.—the father of brothers Alberto and David Covarrubias—was held on June 6 at St. Mary Church in Indianapolis.

“It’s painful. We have kids. We have family,” said Bergara, 25. “We feel sad, pain, anger.”

Anger, confusion and sadness were words Father Michael O’Mara used in his homily—delivered in both Spanish and English—at the cathedral on June 7 when discussing the tragedy. The question of why the violent act occurred is still on many people’s minds, he added.

“So what can we do?” asked the pastor of St. Mary Parish. “We hold each other, we cry on each other’s shoulders, we pray together. In our gathering here today, we seek peace and forgiveness.”

Emma Valdez and Alberto Covarrubias Sr. and their family were active members of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis, Father O’Mara said, adding that they took part in regular Friday prayer groups.

“This was a family that knew the love and joy of life as well as the struggles and brokenness, but in their faith they kept moving forward with one eye on God and the other on each other,” he said.

Mourners, including Sarah Mullin, remembered a hard-working and caring family that was involved at Indianapolis Public School 15, where brothers Alberto and David Covarrubias were students.

“I think it’s really important to remember all the good things about the family,” said Mullin, who taught Alberto for three years in her English As a Second Language class.

“They were some of the best kids I ever taught,” she said, her voice trailing off as she fought back tears.

At the Mass, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein offered his “profound sympathy” to the victims’ families.

“You are all in my prayers,” he said.

Two men, Desmond Turner, 28, and James A. Stewart, 30, have been charged with seven counts of murder, felony murder and criminal confinement, one count of burglary and one count of carrying a handgun without a license. The two Indianapolis men could face the death penalty.

Instead of seeking vengeance, Father O’Mara encouraged the community to work to create an environment of peace.

“May our response not be hate or the desire for more death—even for those who have carried out this violence—but the desire to build the kingdom of God here on this earth, in this world, in this city,” said Father O’Mara, who served as the pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish from 1991 to 1996 and as administrator for 19 months from 2004 to earlier this year.

Afterward, as he stood in the parish hall at St. Philip Neri School at a luncheon for the victims’ families and the surrounding community, the priest looked exhausted from the heartbreak of the deaths and trying to calm and care for the living.

As families sat and consoled one another and children ran and played—unaware of the tragedy that had brought them together—Father O’Mara reflected on the events since the murders. Words of gratitude filled his voice as he talked about the way the community had come together.

He pointed to how the eastside community, St. Philip Neri and St. Mary parishes, the archdiocese, the area ecumenical family, law enforcement and city officials have offered their support.

“So much good has come out of this evil,” he said.

Seconds later, a baby’s cry pierced the air, reminding those in the parish hall how many tears had been shed for the seven family members who had passed on to eternal life. †


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