Our View: Priest provides comfort

Friday , June 21, 2013 - 6:16 PM

Editorial Board

Even though some news outlets had trouble initially spelling his name correctly, the demeanor and reassuring words of The Rev. Erik J. Richtsteig following the tragic Father’s Day shooting at his church helped calm jittery parishioners and a shocked community.

James Evans was shot in the back of the head during Sunday services at St. James the Just Catholic Church in Ogden. His son-in-law, Ricky Jennings, has been charged with attempted homicide, one count of aggravated robbery and one count of possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

Immediately after the shocking shooting, Richtsteig reassured parishioners and later spoke calmly to reporters. At a news conference with family members Monday, he recounted the incident in detail. Throughout the week he provided comfort for his flock as God’s witness, while dealing with questions from the press and authorities as a civil witness to the incident that occurred before him.

He was able to juggle this dual role with great aplomb.

“I think Father is so concrete, so sturdy of a man,” parishioner Kenneth Murphy said.

Richtsteig, who has been with the parish for the past 10 years, had recently returned from a trip to Jerusalem with church members, including Jim Evans and his wife, Tara. So the shooting had a strong personal connection for him.

Richtsteig said the couple are “pillars of the parish, great people. No one deserves this, but I can’t think of a person who would deserve this less than Jim.”

The shooting was not only a shock to the 300 parishioners at the 46-year-old parish, but the community as well.

There still are a lot of questions surrounding the shooting, and a lot of healing to be done, not only for Evans and his family, but the community as a whole.

Richtsteig’s spiritual and civic leadership has helped begin that recovery.

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