When Father Bill Graney was severely beaten in a July 30 attack at his Resurrection Parish office, members of the Pike Creek church reacted in a manner that reflects the community’s personality.
Naturally, they came together in prayer not only for Father Graney and for two staff members who sustained less-severe injuries, but also for Joshua August, 25, the man charged with the attack.
There was little if any anger.
“What I heard was shock and grief. How could someone do this to such a gentle, holy, kind and faithful man?” said Maritza Poza-Grice, longtime parishioner and a parish trustee.
Characteristically, as news of the attack spread, various people stepped forward, quickly arranging for two prayer services within days of the attack, helping in day-to-day operations, and tending to the needs of those involved.
All three were automatic responses for the Resurrection community, in part because of Father Graney’s leadership and example, various parish leaders said.
As Father Graney, 74, continues to recover, Father Greg Corrigan, a former associate pastor, has been appointed administrator by Bishop Malooly.
In a note published in the Aug. 12 parish bulletin, Father Graney thanked parishioners for their prayers. “I am on a good road to recovery,” he said in the message. Parish officials have indicated he faces a lengthy recovery.
He said he also struggles to understand why the assault happened: “We like to have a reason for such sad events. It was beyond reason, so I am striving to move on, learn from the past, and live in the present.”
The parish and Father Graney share a common background that, in hindsight, may have prepared both for the time he would be pastor as well as the community’s response to his assault.
Resurrection was founded in 1969, “shaped by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council,” Father Corrigan noted. “Lay leadership has been and remains the norm at Resurrection. The clergy at Resurrection participate fully in the life of the community, but we understand our ministry in a collaborative way.”
Father Graney received his seminary training in the late 1960s and early ’70s, “when issues of social justice were a [major] concern,” said Deacon John Falkowski, a longtime parishioner. That helped shape Father Graney’s work as he was known to reach out to those in need regardless of who they are or where they live. Among those people was August, his alleged attacker, who Father Graney had been helping for several years.
Father Corrigan noted that aspect of Father Graney’s ministry in his Aug. 12 homily. “Half the people (Father) Bill takes care of and visits and prays with and brings food to are people we’ve never seen in church, or who can’t come any more. He goes to them.”
Resurrection and Father Graney each merged those two movements of a half century ago – Vatican II and social concerns – into their ministries.
Parish council executive officer Al Mercatante noted that Father Graney was more than willing to give the laity “the opportunity to roam, to grow, to be called to action – to be the church that Christ expects us to be, outward and inward.”
The lack of anger may be an outgrowth of how Father Corrigan described the Resurrection community. The parish tries to live a “Contemplative Christianity [that] moves beyond the constraints of the dualistic mind – ‘either/or thinking’ that responds to violence with anger and confusion.”
As a result, following the attack, “the Christian response was to join together in prayer and engage in goodness wherever possible.” That included praying for Father Graney’s assailant.
At a packed parish prayer service three days after the attack, specific prayers were said for August. “What was spoken at the prayer service [was] the concept that we all have demons,” Falkowski said. “Some, unfortunately, cannot control their impulses and act on them.”
“The Resurrection community reaches out and prays for him, and hopes he gets the help he needs to overcome his issues.”
Parish Council member Mary Louise Chesley-Cora said those who had met August “had a strong sense that he had problems. He needs help.”
She also expressed sadness at the overall situation, especially for Father Graney. “He really felt he could help [August] but it was beyond him.”
Chesley-Cora attended a Jesus House Prayer and Renewal Center prayer service the day after the attack, at the time Father Graney would have been celebrating Mass had he not been hospitalized. About 50 people crammed the small Jesus House chapel.
That service included a Scriptural Rosary recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries.
“Each Hail Mary reminded us of another part of the journey of Jesus to Calvary,” she told the parish prayer service later in the week. “It was so vivid, and I could see Father Bill’s face as we prayed – beaten and bloody … with all the violence around him and his friends in grief and despair. That coming together in faith was a great gift to each one of us.”
She and others realized more members of the community needed that same gift, the opportunity to come together in prayer. Chesley-Cora and Falkowski helped put together the parish prayer service, which they led.
Cory Zolandz, former director of religious education, attended both prayer services with her children. “We joined in prayer for Father Bill’s healing, in support of the parish staff, and for the healing of Joshua August,” she said.
“We haven’t stopped (praying). That is who we are as people of faith.”