Crime victims seek comfort at St. Gabriel’s
By Ashley Helms
As she choked back tears, Champagne Marsh recalled one of her most cherished memories of her mother, Kathy Marsh. When the daughter was in middle school and woke up hungry at night, her mother surprised Champagne Marsh at her bedside with just the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she wanted.
But like many other attendees at a mass for victims of crime at St. Gabriel’s Church on Arlington Avenue on Sunday, Champagne Marsh’s story about her mother does not have a happy ending.
Ms. Marsh, 27, revealed that her mother was stabbed to death at the age of 55 in the Bronx last August. The identity of her assailant and a possible motive for the crime remain unknown to police, Ms. Marsh said.
“Those memories make me angry sometimes because those little things, I’ll never get back. The person who did this has no idea how many lives they ruined,” Ms. Marsh said.
St. Gabriel’s Church hosted its special mass to give survivors like her a safe place to heal and commiserate with others who have experienced similar tragedies. The mass has happened every April for the past three years in partnership with the nonprofit Crime Victims Support Services of the North Bronx (CVSS) and the church’s own Prison and Victim Empowerment ministry (PAVE).
“We reach out to prisoners in a women’s prison in Bedford, and also wanted to reach out to the victims of crime,” said Pat O’Malley, a member of PAVE.
For the past 12 years, PAVE has delivered a message of God and prayer to both prisoners and crime victims in the surrounding area.
The church conducts outreach to the elderly and impoverished, among other groups in need, but found there was a lack of religious services for prisoners and survivors, Ms. O’Malley said.
After the crimes stop making headlines, she said many families are left with feelings of grief and anger. The special mass is intended to show that the community still cares.
PAVE sends out fliers across the community in the weeks before the mass. But the response has been limited, with just a handful of people affected by crime attending since the event began.