Waukesha Catholics gather on Christmas Eve 33 days after tragedy struck Christmas parade


WAUKESHA – The Catholic community of Waukesha came together on a bleak Christmas Eve night, 33 days since a man driving a red SUV spread terror in the annual Waukesha Christmas Parade.

A full house at St. William’s Catholic Church listened, sang and joined in prayer.

St. William is one of the four parishes that make up the Catholic community of Waukesha. Father Matthew Widder recently became Chief Pastor of the Catholic Community on September 1 and welcomed all parishioners and visitors to the church.

The other parishes making up the Catholic community (Saint-Joseph, Saint-Jean-Neumann and Sainte-Marie) all celebrated Mass simultaneously. Widder led the sermon at Christmas Eve Mass in St. William.

“We have been filled with so many different blessings, and we too on the other side also have challenges … we also have suffering. We in our community of Waukesha think of the parade that just took place. .. the blessings and the challenges that come with it, ”Widder said.

Father Matthew Widder, center, is pictured during Christmas Eve Mass on Friday, December 24, 2021 at St. William Catholic Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  St. William is one of the four parishes that make up the

Widder encouraged the congregation to rely on their faith to deal with the trauma surrounding the parade.

Police and prosecutors said Darrell Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, drove his SUV through the crowd on the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring at least 62 people. Brooks has been charged with six counts of first degree intentional homicide.

The tragedy of the Christmas parade is particularly striking near our home for the church. The Catholic community of Waukesha marched in the parade and several members were struck and seriously injured, including Father Patrick Heppe, who suffered a concussion.

Widder wanted to draw the attention of the congregation to the Christmas season. He is thankful for Christmas because it brings a sense of peace, he said.

He shared a story from his childhood Christmas. One year, a mysterious gift was under the tree addressed to the family. He said it was a medium sized gift with a bit of weight, which led him to believe it was a toy or electronic device.

Upon opening the gift, the children discovered that it was a bundle of batteries – a necessary thing for many other gifts to work. And Widder said there was a lesson in there.

“Without the batteries nothing works.… But, in essence, that was the most important gift, because it powered everything else,” he said.

The lesson is that without the grace of God or the grace of Jesus Christ, people can’t understand what they need or don’t understand, Widder said.

“We can have all of these things, but we can’t understand them all, we can’t really use them.”

Throughout the Mass, the parishioners, young and old, harmonized as a man led them singing.

Worshipers attend Christmas Eve Mass on Friday, December 24, 2021 at St. William Catholic Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  St. William is one of the four parishes that make up the

“As we sing this ‘Silent Night’ meditation, it makes us feel like on Christmas Eve everything is fine… wherever we are, everything is fine,” Widder said.

“We know the tragedy of the parade that many of us were on and there to see. People who were touched by this tragedy, here at Mass tonight, in the healing process. It is a powerful testimony. of the grace of God. “

Widder closed the service by offering a prayer for the four parishes that make up the Catholic community of Waukesha.

“Go and preach the gospel, thank God,” he said.

Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBentley1@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DrakeBentleyMJS.



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