Ogden • Almost 200 parishioners followed the Rev. Erik Richtsteig through the brush around St. James the Just Catholic Church in Ogden on Thursday evening for a Liturgy of Reparation, a ceremony of healing in the aftermath of Sunday's shooting during Mass that left 66-year-old James Evans severely wounded.
"It is to atone for the damage one of our brothers [alleged shooter Charles Jennings] did in God's house," Richtsteig said. "This is an act of prayer. It's focusing far more on God than on us."
Although Jennings is not a Catholic, Richtsteig explained, he is "still one of our brothers in humanity," and Richtsteig asked those in attendance to pray for Jennings before beginning the ritual.
"We're not going to let the devil turn us away from who Jesus calls us to be," Richtsteig said.
Inside the church, parishioners' voices joined together in prayer as they recited the Liturgy of the Saints, the phrases "Pray for us" and "Deliver us" echoing off the walls as the congregation asked the saints and angels to pray for them and their church. After the prayers, Richtsteig again spoke.
He encouraged the congregation to look back at the Bible verses that teach forgiveness in place of vengeance.
"The evil that happened here can end today," he said, "if we can forgive."
Before the ceremony, Tara Evans, James Evans' wife, greeted her fellow parishioners, embracing them and thanking them for their prayers. She expects her husband to be released from the hospital within the next couple days.
James Evans suffered no brain damage but will have a long recovery at home once he is released.
"Everyone coming together and praying is a release," Evans said. "It says we aren't going to let evil win.
"I'm sitting in the back where we were sitting [when the shooting occurred]," she added. "I'm not going to let evil chase me out of my seat either."
The congregants remained inside the nave after Richtsteig left to sing "Lift High the Cross," a final testament to their refusal to be chased away from their faith.