‘Sweetest,’ ‘Kindest’ Man Laid to Rest
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 11, 2024
ROCKFORD—A quote from St. Mother Teresa graced the back of the prayer card for Jay Larson at his funeral Mass on April 3 at the Cathedral of St. Peter.
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies … Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
In her remarks before the Mass began, Larson’s sister described him as “The sweetest child who grew up to be the kindest man.” She briefly reminisced about her 49-year-old brother, the youngest of eight children, naming many acts of kindness and noting wryly that the family knew if they came upon a pile of kids on the floor that Uncle Jay would be at the bottom.
Larson served as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service for 25 years, and while carrying out those duties on March 27, he became one of four fatal victims of a knife-wielding man, an unprovoked attack that  impacted  the entire Rockford area community and was reported nationally. Seven others were injured in the attack.  
Postal employees attended the Mass along with family and friends and others who wished to pay their respects.
Bishop David Malloy celebrated the funeral Mass along with Cathedral rector, Father Kenneth Anderson, and Fathers Nicholas Federspiel and Kenneth Stachyra.
In his homily, the bishop noted that Larson died during Holy Week, the day before the Triduum began, “the holiest, and most foundational celebration of Christian faith.”
“In faith, the hope we were preparing to recall, to spiritually enter on the following day into the suffering and death of Jesus Christ … the hope that links time and eternity in heaven and earth is the hope we have here today.
“Of course, each year it is the wish of the faithful that Holy Week might be lived in peace and reflection befitting that sacred moment. And as we know, that was not meant to be.”
Bishop Malloy quoted “an old priest” who spoke words at a funeral that he never forgot: “Only those can truly mourn who have first loved.” He noted all the comments that day and at the visitation of how Jay was “a good guy,” and that those comments were sincere. Naming postal workers, first responders and grocery store workers, the bishop reflected on the people in society who “do not simply have a job. They play an important role in building the social fabric … of our lives … (giving) the comfort and reliability that builds trust … and when done joyfully, and with a smile and the humor Jay was known for, the conditions that God intended, in which we all desire for our lives, are made possible …”
The violence “wounded the very fabric of Rockford. … The love and respect for the human dignity that each of us bears because every human person … and every victim of last week’s violence, has been made in the image and likeness of God.”
“Our task now is to recommit … to living as brothers and sisters … to seeking the truth in each other in charity and love. We need also to recommit to praying for peace in our lives and in our neighborhoods. We should remember to keep our prayers especially … to those who are called to lead and to protect us,” he said, naming police and city leaders for whom “we should be asking for God’s help.”
Bishop Malloy also called everyone present to embrace hope.
“Our love for Jay is based in hope,” he said, quoting from the Gospel chosen by the family for the Mass. Acknowledging the family’s suffering, he spoke of the death of Jesus on the cross and the suffering that was also involved with his death.
“Even in death, life is changed, not ended,” he quoted, adding that death is the doorway into life without end.
“By the blood of the cross, by the offering of this Mass, by prayers people will continue to offer beyond this day for Jay, for his final purification and union with God, we share with you the hope of being again with Peter, with Mary and with Jay. The reality of Easter and the resurrection that we celebrated last Sunday is your hope. It is Jay’s hope. It is our hope.”
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