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Prayer vigil set for victims of Baltimore bridge collapse

Fr Ako Walker, a Redemptorist from Trinidad, will lead a candlelight prayer service at his Latino immigrant parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus.

(Archdiocese of Baltimore)

A Trinidadian Catholic priest in Baltimore will help lead a prayer vigil on Monday, April 8, for those affected by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, which left six dead and several injured on March 26.

The victims, all of whom were Latino immigrants, include individuals from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Fr Ako Walker, a Redemptorist ordained in 2019, is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, which serves a primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant community and will host the prayer service.

“We are a family and the Catholic Church reaches out to everyone, especially those people who find themselves in precarious situations,” he told BCM, noting that the victims of the collapse were not parishioners at Sacred Heart.

“This prayer service and candlelight vigil is to honor the memory of our fallen brothers and to spiritual support and journey in solidarity with their families home and abroad who are attempting to come to terms with such a tremendous loss. “

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott spoke of the bridge collapse as “unthinkable” on Friday, when the body of Maynor Suazo Sandoval, 38, was recovered from the Patapsco River. Other victims include Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, who were found on March 27; Miguel Luna, 49; José López, 35; and Carlos Hernández, 24.

“While I take solace in knowing this brings us one step closer to closure, my heart continues to be with all the families still waiting anxiously for their loved ones,” Scott said.

A diagram shows the path of the container ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26. (Creative Commons)

The recovered bodies were trapped in maintenance vehicles that were on the bridge at the time of its collapse. The incident occurred late in the night last month when an out-of-control container ship struck one of the piers of the 47-year-old truss bridge. Luna, López, and Hernández remain missing and are presumed dead.

Prayers and condolences have poured in from around the country and beyond, including from government officials outside of the affected region, which relied on the bridge as a mode of travel for more than 11 million vehicles per year.

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York, one of the nation’s Black Catholic congressmen and himself an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, highlighted the important work of men such as those lost in the collapse.

“As we grieve the tragic loss of the 6 men in Baltimore's bridge collapse, let's remember their vital role,” he wrote on Twitter. “Their role as hard-working immigrant essential workers from Latin America, their role and dedication to make our nation's infrastructure safer for all. We must never forget.”

Monday’s prayer vigil in Baltimore is expected to include Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, as well as Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, a fellow Redemptorist with Fr Walker.

The event will begin at Sacred Heart at 7pm ET, followed by a candlelight procession with six stops along the way, honoring each of the men lost in the collapse.

“Prayer doesn't know time and space,” Walker said, “so in this Easter Season, we pray that the risen Christ welcomes these men into His Kingdom and comforts all who are mourning.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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