Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - Updated: 12:58 pm
As much as violence defined the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood Oct. 27, 2018, Bishop David Zubik said, love defined the gathering before him a year later.
“We need to continue to ask God to place his healing hand on those who still grieve,” he said during the 29th annual LoveWalk for the Poor Oct. 26.
Sponsored by Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, the walk’s theme of “United in Love” commemorated the first anniversary of the shootings. The bishop was joined by Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, president of Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side. A member of Tree of Life, Cohen lives close to the synagogue and heard the shots during the massacre. He was later on hand to treat victims at Allegheny General.
Also joining them for the walk from PNC Park was former Pirates President Frank Coonelly and Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh.
The bishop spoke of a local community that has been united by its ability to love during the past year. In reading the names of the 11 victims, he noted how they continue to be an inspiration to others. Bishop Zubik spoke of his friendship with brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who died in the attack.
“Two men who were open to friendship with a Catholic bishop,” he said.
Another victim, Dr. Richard Gottfried, served as a volunteer dentist at Catholic Charities’ Free Health Care Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. Gottfried’s wife, Dr. Margaret Durachko, a member of St. Athanasius Parish in West View, part of the Neighbors North Catholic Community, was among those attending the LoveWalk.
The bishop noted that, being “United in Love,” the gathering was recognizing those who often feel unloved — people who are given labels that alienate them. The LoveWalk is a heart-to-heart effort, he said, and it encourages others to love without boundaries. He pointed to St. Teresa of Kolkata’s words: “Spread love wherever you go.”
That love would be on display the next day when Jewish volunteers were scheduled to work at Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph House of Hospitality in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, he said.
Peduto acknowledged that the city was in the midst of a difficult weekend. He noted that the community hadn’t gotten to the point of healing yet and was still mourning, adding, “In darkness you see light. That light is still all around.”
The mayor asked those gathered to reflect on the poor people they see on the streets. They are mainly downtown, he noted, because it is where many social services are accessible. “This is where they live,” Peduto said. “This is where they get the help they need.”
By showing their affection for others through the LoveWalk, Peduto said, they are reflecting the same love being shown to the Jewish community. It is a love that will strengthen the entire community.
Cohen said that he was attending the walk because of the kindness shown by Bishop Zubik immediately following the shooting and ongoing since then. He also wished to thank the local church, the Muslim community and others who showed compassion.
“Words are important, but actions are more important,” he said.
Pittsburgh is known for its kindness, Cohen said. “This community is a model for the rest of the world,” he said. “We came together.”
Bishop Zubik, Peduto and Cohen led the LoveWalk, which began on Federal Street outside of PNC Park and processed across the Roberto Clemente Bridge into Downtown Pittsburgh. It ended at the offices of Catholic Charities on Ninth Street. Participants carried donations of food and winter items such as scarves and gloves. The act simulated the plight of the homeless, who must often carry all of their possessions with them.