Aurora, Diocese Respond to Tragedy in Prayer
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
February 21, 2019
AURORA—Few people ever think the end of the week will mean the end to life.
But that’s exactly what happened Friday, Feb. 15 in one community in the Rockford Diocese. 
It was on that day that Aurora was added to the tragically long list of cities rocked by an act of senseless gun violence. A 45-year-old disgruntled employee of the Henry Pratt Company, identified as Gary Martin, opened fire. He killed five employees and wounded another employee and five police officers before he too was shot and killed. 
Victims of the gunman were Russell Beyer, Vincente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner.
During the harrowing hours of the incident, which reportedly began at 1:24 p.m., area schools including Holy Angels School located just half a mile from the plant went on lockdown. 
All other area schools, including St. Rita of Cascia and Auora Central Catholic High School, were placed on a soft lockdown. 
Parents were notified immediately that the children were safe, and they would be cared for, until an all clear was issued from police. 
When permitted, the schools began dismissing students to their parents in intervals because of the heavy police and emergency response presence in the area. 
Principals notified the Diocese of Rockford, which posted updates and calls for prayer on social media until the lockdown was lifted.
The next morning, Feb. 16, Bishop David Malloy issued a statement in English and Spanish relaying his condolences and requesting all parishes in the diocese keep the community of Aurora in prayer during all weekend Masses. 
The statement, which was sent to all priests and parishes, posted to social media and the diocesan website, read:
“I extend my prayers and deepest sympathy to the family members of those who lost their lives yesterday in the shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois. I ask for prayers as well for all who were injured in the course of the incident, especially the responding police officers who were wounded as they risked their lives to save those still in the building.
“I join Mayor Richard Irvin who called for prayers and solidarity in the Aurora community in the wake of this sorrowful moment. Our Catholic faithful and parishes solemnly offer their contribution to his call for healing and unity in the one community that is Aurora, Illinois.”
On Sunday, Bishop Malloy joined a crowd of about 500 at the industrial park where Henry Pratt is located for a prayer vigil and to help the Aurora community begin the healing process.
According to the Aurora Beacon News, area clergy took turns offering prayers for the victims and their families. 
Bishop Malloy said prayers for Clayton Parks, 32, and his family. Parks was the human resources manager and part of the termination meeting for the gunman.
 “We pray for his wife, Abby, and his son, Axel, for strong support of family and friends,” the bishop said. “By our help may their sorrow be lessened, and Clayton’s memory be ever remembered.”