“I love you, Tara.”
These were the first words Jim Evans uttered to his wife after being shot in the head by his son-in-law during a worship service Sunday at the St. James the Just Catholic Church.
Tara Evans was one of more than 150 congregants who gathered at the church Thursday for a liturgy of reparation, offered by the Rev. Erik Richtsteig. The service was to cleanse the chapel from the unholy actions that had occurred earlier that week.
One congregant who cleans the church said it felt different when he was there Wednesday. After the liturgy, he said, the church was beginning to feel normal again.
“It think (the liturgy) was necessary,” Michael Shurtleff said. “It think it really began a healing process.”
Parishioners filed in and dipped their fingers in holy water, making the sign of the cross with three fingers as Richtsteig and other church officials walked around the chapel’s perimeter, sprinkling holy water held in an aspergillum. The water blesses the areas where it is sprinkled, Richtsteig explained after the service.
Richtsteig sounded various pleas that were then repeated by the congregation.
“Have mercy on us.”
Just days earlier, Charles “Ricky” Jennings, 35, walked into the church, holding hands with his wife, Cheryl. He approached his father-in-law, who was standing next to the ushers during the service, and shot him in the head.
Jim Evans turned his head right as Jennings shot, and the bullet entered near his right ear and exited through the opposite cheek.
Jennings is charged with attempted murder, aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated burglary, all first-degree felonies; and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony…
…During his remarks later that day, Richtsteig asked those in the parish to go home and read holy scriptures, to avoid seeking vengeance and to forgive.
“Take these words to heart, because the evil that was done in this chapel can stop today,” he said.
Richtsteig encouraged those who were struggling to contact the church and reach out if they needed help. Each has the choice to either think of the negative actions of one person, he said, or remember the heroic actions of more than 300 on Sunday.
“There’s one bad guy, but there’s a whole church full of good guys,” Richtsteig said.
Tara Evans, sitting where her husband was shot earlier in the week, nodded at Richtsteig’s words, and silently clapped when he finished.
“We’re not going to let evil come in and take us over,” she later said.
Wearing a pin of Mother Mary and Jesus, and with bright eyes and a beaming smile, Tara Evans spoke of her blessings. Thursday morning, she and her husband walked hand-in-hand down the hospital hall, surrounded by medical equipment and “an entourage” of medical staff.
“It’s probably the best walk I ever took with him,” she said.