Archbishop Cordileone blesses Half Moon Bay crime sites, reclaims them in prayer as “places of peace.”

By Christina Gray

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone traveled to Half Moon Bay on Jan. 27 to acknowledge the lives lost and families fractured in a deadly workplace shooting Jan. 23.

Eight migrant farmworkers were shot by a former co-worker at two separate locations in the bucolic coastal enclave, 30 miles from San Francisco. Seven of the victims died and one remains in critical condition. The suspect was apprehended hours later.

A crowd of approximately 50 grieving family and community members, including the town’s mayor, gathered at both the Mountain Mushroom Farms and Concord Farms sites where the Archbishop came to help reclaim the site from the violence that occurred there.

“We come together this day to reclaim this space of death as a place of life,” he said, circling the grounds to bless them with holy water.

“This place where violence occurred, we are reclaiming as a place of peace. This place that causes fear, anger and pain, we are reclaiming as a place of hope and community. We reclaim the humanity of both victim and victimizer in God’s name.”

The Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Restorative Justice Ministry under the Office of Human Life & Dignity organizes public prayer services for victims of violent crimes within archdiocesan boundaries. Half Moon Bay is in San Mateo County, one of the three counties served by the Archdiocese.

The Archbishop spoke in both English and Spanish. All of the victims — seven men and one woman — were of either Asian or Hispanic descent.

According to the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office, the victims were Yetao Bing, 43; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Jose Romero Perez, 36; PedroZhishen Liu, 73; Jingzhi Lu, 64; and Aixiang Zhang, 74.

Servando Martinez fought back tears as he spoke haltingly in Spanish about his brother, Mariano, one of the victims.

“For me, my brother Marciano is not dead. He is only ahead of us,” he said. As family members flanked him in support at the microphone, he asked for forgiveness for the suspect, a remarkable act of faith the Archbishop recognized.

“They themselves have manifested the love of God in extending forgiveness to the perpetrator of this heinous crime who took their loved ones away from them,” he said.

Renato Juarez Perez spoke about how his cousin Jose Romero Perez helped him find his way in a new country when he left Oaxaca, Mexico, to join other family members laboring in the fields of Half Moon Bay.

“I felt very safe when I came here a year and a half ago,” he said.

The Half Moon Bay rampage was the second mass shooting in three days in California. On Jan. 21 in Monterey Park, Calif., 11 people were killed and nine wounded at a dance studio by a 76-year-old suspect who took his own life shortly afterward.

In comments after the prayer services, Father Jose Corral, pastor of Our Lady of the Pillar Parish in Half Moon Bay said his parish community has rallied around the families “emotionally, spiritually and physically.”

“Two of those seven people who died are from our parish,” he said. “We hope that this is going to bring the parish together and the town of Half Moon Bay even closer and to get closer to God, to get closer to Jesus. He works in mysterious ways.”

The parish and the Archdiocese also took part in a community candlelight vigil for the victims later that night.

Christina Gray is the lead writer for Catholic San Francisco.

Photos and video by Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisco

Watch Archbishop Cordileone’s blessing in Half Moon Bay and message in English and Spanish.