STATE COLLEGE — An hour of quiet meditation, singing without accompaniment and Scripture about doing right and loving one’s neighbor was just what the community needed, said one member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church.
The church held a prayer service Sunday afternoon for local victims of sexual abuse and for members of the community, of all faiths, who have been hurt by that crime in some way.
About 45 people gathered to pray and be together.
Deacon David Lapinski referenced the ongoing case affecting Penn State and the greater community. Former football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with 40 counts related to alleged child sexual abuse, bringing chaos over the past month with national media descending on the region, allegations of abuse and cover-up, and the removal of top Penn State officials from their positions.
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Transitioning from the Bible stories of Cain and Abel and the good Samaritan, Lapinski said people can’t decide guilt and innocence and should not interfere with the legal process.
In the story of Cain and Abel, the brothers both give offerings, but God favors Abel. Cain then kills his brother and, when God asks of Abel’s whereabouts, Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In the story of the good Samaritan, a man is injured at the side of the road and both a priest and Levite walk by, avoiding him. The Samaritan stops to help him, though Samaritans and Jews typically did not get along.
“We also can’t know what’s in the heart of another person,” Lapinski said. “Let’s not presume to know the whole story. That may not come quickly. I pray it does, though.”
For those who may not know what to do when facing such a situation, he said those of faith can pray, use their talents to help comfort those who are hurting, and donate to charitable causes.
“Things will happen again,” he said. “We pray that we can fight that.”
The group kneeled as volunteers lit 10 purple candles, which will remain burning at the church.
Monsignor David Lockard said the candles will send the group’s prayers up to God.
“The candle takes our place as we go about our lives,” he said. After the service, he said they would be moved near the shrine to Mary, who he said will look over the community and its children.
Lockard said various members of his parish approached him to say the church should do something, such as hold a service. Some have experienced abuse before and are hurting, he said.
“They want to pray about it, and I don’t blame them,” he said. “As the deacon said in his talk, we are right down the street from the university. This is something. Maybe a first step.”
One attendee, a church member, did not want to give her name, but said the community needed the service and needs to heal.
“It’s unbelievable what has happened to our community,” she said, adding she hopes the Christmas season will help bring people some cheer.
Lapinski said that, unfortunately, what happened in State College is not new and won’t end this week, this month or this year.
“The challenge is not to be the priest or Levite walking by,” he said, adding that, while he doesn’t know what happens when we die, “I hope we can say, ‘I was my brother’s keeper.’ ”
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910.