LA archbishop prays for Monterey Park victims during Lunar New Year Mass

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez and those who visited a Chinatown parish on Sunday, Jan. 22, for a Mass celebrating the Lunar New Year expressed sorrow over a shooting in Monterey Park the night before that left 10 dead and at least 10 others injured, saying they will pray for the victims and their families.

Gomez still celebrated the Mass as planned, welcoming the Chinese Year of the Rabbit with 250 to 300 people at St. Bridget Chinese Parish.

And while the mood inside the Catholic church was still festive, Gomez took time to acknowledge the tragedy that struck inside Monterey Park ballroom Saturday night as residents in that city celebrated the Lunar New Year.

“We are going to pray for all the people who died and were injured last night in the tragedy,” the archbishop said before the Mass.

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Parishoners pray as Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Parishoners pray as Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Parishoners and alter boys, pray as Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates the Chinese New Year Mass at St. Bridget Chinese Parish in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2023. The Archbishop asked for peace and prayers for the victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting, and their families. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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He also acknowledged the victims during the beginning of his homily, with parishioners packing the small, mid-century church while others watched via a livestream while sitting outside.

“This morning we must remember the victims of the shooting at Monterey Park. It is so sad. We pray for those killed and injured in this shooting and we ask that God stay close to their families and loved ones.”

St. Bridget was founded in 1940 by Rev. John Cowhig, a native of Ireland who spent more than a decade, through the 1930s, as a missionary in several Chinese provinces, according to the archdiocese.

In 2000, the parish was named the L.A. archdiocese’s National Parish for the Chinese People.

Besides the Lunar New Year Mass, the event celebrated the opening of the parish’s new Christian Evangelization Center, intended to be a place of outreach into Chinatown.

The mass shooting, meanwhile, took place shortly after Monterey Park welcomed thousands of people to the city’s downtown for its own Lunar New Year celebration. Monterey Park has about 61,000 residents, around 65% of whom are Asian, according to census data.

“We pray for those killed and injured in this shooting, we ask that God stay close to their families and loved ones,” Gomez said in a formal statement about the shooting. “We pray for the wounded to be healed, and we ask that God give strength and guidance to the doctors and nurses who are caring for them.”

That statement, as well as those the archbishop made inside St. Bridget’s, contrasted starkly with the rest of his homily and the celebratory nature of the Chinatown event.

“We’re happy it’s the new year,” Gomez said before celebrating Mass, “and we’re going to bless the new center, so it’s a special day.”

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Many of those who attended the event – the first in three years at the church — did so to renew their vows after five years of marriage.

Darrel Ng and his wife traveled from Sacramento to celebrate the mass at St. Bridget, where the couple met and married.

“It’s great to come home,” Ng said.

He also recognized the victims of the shooting, saying he will pray for them and hope no one else gets hurt. But at least with the Lunar New Year happening, Ng said, the community is together; that’s a blessing, he said, “to be able to commiserate and be with others is very important at this time.”

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