Church and community cared for families of synagogue hostages during hours of crisis | national

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — For hours Saturday, the Good Shepherd Catholic Community Church of Colleyville came to the aid of Congregation Beth Israel as a gunman held Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three other hostages at the synagogue.

Help came in the form of a safe place for the rabbi’s family and the spouses of other hostages to wait out the ordeal.

And Father Mike Higgins took the time Sunday morning to praise the effort and how the communities have helped each other.

“It showed what the worst in community can do and what the best in community (can do) too,” Higgins said Sunday during one of Good Shepherd’s morning masses.

The incident ended around 9:15 p.m. Saturday, after nearly 11 hours of negotiations between police and the FBI, when the hostages escaped unharmed and the suspect died as law enforcement entered. building. The FBI on Sunday publicly identified the hostage taker as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen.

Higgins said shortly after authorities learned Akram had taken hostages around 10:40 a.m., Colleyville police contacted church officials about a safe place to keep the families.

Good Shepherd, 1000 Tinker Road, is just north of the Colleyville Synagogue.

The hostages’ families remained at Good Shepherd for most of the day, sometimes within yards of reporters working in a staging area at Colleyville Church.

“The families of the hostages were taken care of by church staff,” Higgins said.

It was from around 11 a.m. Saturday until almost midnight.

“I think that was an indication of how well the message about how we should treat those in need has really seeped into the community here at Good Shepherd,” Higgins told the congregation.

The priest noted how a ministry team and church staff stepped in to help throughout Saturday. The media were in the church hall while the families were in the church administration building.

“What we were trying to do was give families a safe space,” Higgins said. “They were able to have time for themselves.”

The Good Shepherd priest also noted that the Colleyville community flooded the church with food.

“There’s a crisis going on, you need a pan,” Higgins said in a moment of levity during Sunday morning mass. “You need brisket sandwiches, you need barbecue. They didn’t know the families were there; it was for the staff.

Higgins told the congregation there was a lot of good that happened behind the scenes on Saturday.

“Too often we focus on the negative things,” the priest said. “And we don’t celebrate all the positives.”

Higgins expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped.

“You can’t just imagine the terror they were going through,” the priest said, referring to the families. “I’m so proud of what this community has been able to do.”

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Jerry B. Hatch