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Merrimack Valley

October 29, 2013

'In the face of great tragedy ...'

Homily for funeral of Colleen Ritzer

Delivered by the Rev. Peter G. Gori, O.S.A., pastor

St. Augustine Church, Andover,

Oct. 28, 2013

By our presence here, we all express our very sincere sympathy and compassionate support to Colleen’s family — specially her parents, Tom and Peggie; her brother, Dan; and her sister, Laura. The circle of those who love Colleen gets bigger and bigger, not unlike her beautiful smile. It includes her grandmother, Anne; her aunts and uncles and cousins, her classmates, friends, neighbors, parishioners, her fellow teachers and administrators and certainly her students, past and current. We welcome Bishop Peter Uglietto of the North Region of the Archdiocese of Boston, where Danvers High School is located. Bishop Uglietto is also here to represent and convey the prayerful sympathy of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. We also welcome Fr. Dennis Gallagher, representing the community of Assumption College. It is said that a burden which is shared becomes lighter. That is true, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

In the face of great tragedy, we are shocked and horrified. We are naturally inclined to ask, “Why?” It is immensely frustrating when, like now, there is no satisfactory answer to that question. This makes it hurt even more. 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. From deep within each of us comes the same cry, “This should not happen!” Not to Colleen; not to anyone.

I will try to follow Colleen’s good example as a math teacher, who may suggest that a problem be approached from a different way to seek the solution. Perhaps we should ask not “Why or even how she died?” but rather “Why and how did she live?” When I ask that question, the answer comes into view. Colleen’s life was short. Twenty-four years is not a very long time, by anyone’s measurement. And yet, in that time that was hers, she showed herself to be a beloved daughter and granddaughter, a delightful sister, niece and cousin, a really good friend and student, and not least of all, a truly wonderful teacher. As a teacher, she fulfilled a desire and her dream and she did so with great joy and talent. Everyone would agree that Colleen was born to be a teacher. Indeed, she lived for it.

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