Inside the church, cousin Gina McDaniel described Ritzer as the daughter who every parent hopes their child will become when they grow up. She said Ritzer’s love for teaching was second only to her love for her family.
“Her heart and soul were encompassed in her family,” McDaniel said.
But it was teaching where Ritzer especially shined, McDaniel said, becoming a mentor to her students in just the first few years of her career. McDaniel said the effect her cousin had can be seen in how people have bonded together to commemorate and celebrate her life.
“(She) made people feel loved, comforted and optimistic,” McDaniel said. “Colleen’s grace made her life fulfilling. In such a short period of time, one person has made a world of difference.”
In his homily, Gori said what he could to address the greatest question coming out of Ritzer’s death: “Why?” It’s been a question asked countless times in the last week as many have sought to understand how one of Ritzer’s 14-year-old students at Danvers High could have allegedly been responsible for her death.
“It is immensely frustrating, when, like now, there is no satisfactory answer to that question. This makes it hurt even more,” he said. “We have names for a death like Colleen’s, words that burn our lips. Yet, no amount of evidence or facts can ever justify it or explain it, and that too hurts.”
The homily also highlighted Ritzer’s inclination “to see the good in people, especially her students,” Gori said. “She enjoyed them and respected them; she cared about them and she cared for them; she loved them.”
In addition to Gallagher, the visiting clergy included Bishop Peter Uglietto of the North Region of the Archdiocese of Boston, where Danvers High School is located. He represented the sympathy of Cardinal Sean O’Malley.