EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 24, 2013

Pastor consoles family: 'You are not alone in this'

ANDOVER — Hours after consoling and praying with the grief-stricken family of Colleen Ritzer at their home, the Rev. Peter Gori fought back tears himself last night as he grappled with the horror of her death.

Tears, because words fail everyone at a time like this, said the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Andover — where Ritzer’s parents were married more than a quarter-century ago and where Ritzer and her two younger siblings were baptized and confirmed.

As Ritzer’s family, her religious community and the town of Andover as a whole struggled with the death of the bright and caring young woman, Gori said it’s impossible to make sense of the “horrible, sad, painful loss.”

“I wish you could, but you can’t. It’s bigger than our ability to make sense of,” Gori said. “It’s just totally wrong by every civilized standard and every drive there is.”

Gori prayed for Ritzer and her family at the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Augustine yesterday, before heading to their home on Dascomb Road to be by their side. The home was filled with members of their extended family, with more relatives expected to arrive from Vermont, where Ritzer’s father, Thomas, was raised.

Parents Thomas and Peggie Ritzer reeled from the shock and sought answers, Gori said. He offered comfort and the knowledge that the community was there for them and grieving with them.

“There is no rule book for this sort of thing,” Gori said. “I let them know they were in our prayers and our compassion. If anything, what can make a terrible situation worse even is thinking you are alone in this. To be present for people suffering like this is a source of strength. ... It’s more important for them to be surrounded by love and caring that’s soothing for her parents and brother and sister.”

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