It was a somber evening as the souls of 193 homeless individuals who in 2016 passed away on the streets of Orange County due to illness, exposure or violence were remembered at a pray service. Most of them did not receive a proper memorial at their passing. The Dec. 21 Homeless Persons’ Interfaith Memorial Service, held in the Arboretum at Christ Cathedral, was held on the first day of winter – the longest night of the year – and was part of the National Day of Remembrance. Representatives from a number of faith communities participated in the evening.
The event was organized by the Diocese of Orange Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages, the Sisters of St. Joseph, HomeAid Orange County and Our Father’s Table.
“This is the first time in Orange County that we’ve been able to do this service,” said Gina Marie Seriel, foundress and executive director of Our Father’s Table. “This is a national service that’s been going on for years, but this is the first time in Orange County that we’ve been able to come together … and we are committed to doing it next year.”
Michael Donaldson, director of the Diocese’s Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages, said, “We need to remember these individuals who died who didn’t have that moment, like others who have that funeral rite or memorial service. We’re providing that moment of honor and remembrance for these individuals.”
The service began with the reading of the names of all the people who were lost this year. A procession of volunteers carried single candles for each person being remembered that evening. Representatives from 10 different faith communities each spoke briefly, offering thoughts, poems and prayers in a variety of languages. They included Diocese of Orange Bishop Kevin Vann, Fr. Christopher Smith, Pastor Cole Beshore, Bishop Murray Finck (Lutheran), Rev. Nichelle Madrigal (Buddhist) , Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi (Muslim), Dr. Jasjit Singh (Sikh), Rabbi Frank Stern, Tom Thorkelson (Mormon), Rev. Steve Tsichlis (Orthodox), and Pastor Mark Whitlock (AME).