By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A traveling tribute to those who have lost their lives to gun violence was on display outside Sacred Heart Cathedral last month. “Memorial to the Lost” has been set up at various hilltop churches near the cathedral that belong to an organization called PUNCH — People Uniting Neighborhoods and Church.
The display, which began in 2014, features one T-shirt per local victim of gun violence, printed with the person’s name, age and date of death. At present, 27 T-shirts have been placed on stands, representing the 27 victims whose ages range from 2 to 64, said Jim Collins, a member of Sacred Heart Cathedral and parish representative to PUNCH.
Each week since mid-June the display has traveled from one church to another in a walking procession. After the T-shirts are set up for display, a service is held. On July 21, Father Rich Adam, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral, led the service which included an opening prayer, Old Testament reading, Gospel reading, reflection, recitation of the victims’ names and a litany of commitment.
The display remains in place for a week. Informational fliers about Memorial to the Lost are available. This effort follows a national program called Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, based in Philadelphia. The flier addresses the point of the display, how it is set up, and provides suggestions about what can be done to prevent gun violence. When PUNCH learned of this memorial effort, “we were in it 100 percent,” said Brenda Hanes of Third Missionary Baptist.
Collins said Pastor Richard Miller of First Presbyterian came across the national model. When the model was adapted locally, the display featured 19 shirts; the number has grown to 27. “These were people at the wrong place, at the wrong time,” Collins said.
At Sacred Heart Cathedral’s service, the crowd was larger than expected, Collins noted. The Roberts family had a reunion that weekend which had been scheduled before the shooting death of Jason Roberts on June 9. When the family learned of the service, many of their members attended.
Following the service, the family took the display T-shirt and had a photo of Jason imprinted on it and returned the shirt within a half hour, Collins noted. Robert’s T-shirt is the most recent memorial.
“There are all kinds of stories that we don’t know about the victims,” Collins said, adding that for families such as the Roberts, the memorial can offer some hope and healing.
The display then went to First Christian Church in Davenport. The Rev. Linda Hunsaker is the church’s pastor, and a chaplain. “I am on call right now. I have witnessed the sorrow of some of these families who have a loved one whose name is on one of these T-shirts due to gun violence.”
She noted that everyone needs to be a witness in the community and stand with those who grieve because of violence. “We lift up their names.”
Memorial to the Lost has been on display at First Presbyterian, Third Missionary Baptist, First Baptist, Trinity Episcopal, St. John United Methodist, Bethel AME, Sacred Heart Cathedral and First Christian where the display ended for the summer.