Approximately 100 people joined St. Monica Catholic Church and the Westside Coalition for an interfaith memorial for members of their community who passed away while they were homeless during this year.
The Westside Coalition, an alliance of over 35 organizations, public agencies and faith communities committed to ending hunger and homelessness through service coordination, public education and advocacy, has hosted the memorial service with the St. Monica Catholic Community for several years now, according to Darci Niva, director, Westside Coalition.
“I think it’s an important part of our community, because as hard as all of our agencies work to get people off the streets, sometimes people still die while they’re on the street,” Niva said.
“We want to do something to honor them, and to be able to have this service where, as much as we’re doing for this community, we’re hoping to even do more,” Niva stated.
At a park across the street from church grounds, a two-man choir sung hymns, including “Amazing Grace,” “To Where You Are,” and “I Will Remember You,” between words of encouragement and prayers offered by Reverend Catherine Wagar (Deacon at St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church in South L.A.), Reverend Lester Mackenzie (St. Matthew Parish), and Rabbi Nick Renner (Kehillat Israel)
Rev. Mackenzie said the gathering to remember those who have passed on was a gift to remind everyone that when whey encounter their homeless brothers and sisters, to actually see them.
“We live in a very dangerous time where choice is exceeding meaning, when you can have a plethora of choices, and it’s easier to buy something new to replace it than to pursue meaning,” he said.
“The danger of choice exceeding meaning is then what becomes of value? What does a human life become to all of us in our daily lives,” Rev. Mackenzie said.
“This is a really special event, because it gives us a chance to honor and celebrate the lives of some very important people, who are no longer with us,” said Christina Miller, board chair, Westside Coalition and associate director at OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) during her welcoming remarks.
OPCC is an independent, community-supported organization in which works to address the effects of poverty, abuse, neglect and discrimination.
“It also gives us a chance to honor those who cared for them,” Miller added.
As the choir sang, “Go Rest High on the Mountain,” by Vince Gill, Traci Freeman, once homeless but who now shares housing with a roommate, wiped her tears, stood up, and passed out sunflowers to many of the mourners.
Kevin McCardle of the St. Monica Catholic community, shared a message about the importance of remembering those who have died. “We remember,” he said, before pronouncing the names or nicknames of approximately 20 people who have made their transition. He called their names, and attendees repeated them in response.
The speakers’ podium was flanked on both sides by renditions by artist Stuart Perlman of some who have died.
The community enjoyed food and fellowship at St. Monica Catholic Church following a closing song by accompanist Phil Cordaro and vocalist Cesar Marquez.