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After suicide at Catholic services center, Seattle archbishop emphasizes hope

Bishop Paul D Etienne Credit CNA file photo CNA Bishop Paul D. Etienne. CNA file photo.

In the wake of a suicide at a Catholic social services headquarters in Seattle, Archbishop Paul Etienne said that Christians should remember the “desperation and hopelessness” of those in distress, but also God’s “profound love.”

In a Feb. 23 letter to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Etienne reported that on Tuesday afternoon a “distraught individual” entered the headquarters of Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services at the Randolph Carter Family and Learning Center in Seattle.

“He threatened the life of a staff member before taking his own life,” the archbishop said. “Mercifully, no one else was harmed and all of the staff were able to safely leave the building.”

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The Catholic community was “deeply saddened by the tragic events,” said the archbishop.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the deceased person and his family,” Etienne said. “Our prayers are also with everyone who was part of or witnessed today’s painful events.”

The archbishop connected the man’s death to the stresses of poverty, the coronavirus epidemic and despair.

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“Events like this remind us of the stress and pain that unrelenting poverty can bring. Events like this remind us of the real suffering and frustration that coincide with untreated health conditions,” he said. “Events like this remind us of the desperation and hopelessness people feel before taking their own lives—a tragic trend that is exacerbated by the pressures of the COVID-19 epidemic.”

The archbishop prayed that everyone involved is “aware of and reminded of God’s profound love.”

“I ask the Holy Spirit to provide healing and comfort to our families and communities, especially those who are poor, fearful and vulnerable during these most challenging of times,” he added.

The archbishop especially praised the employees of Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services.

“We are called by Jesus to accompany the poor and care for them,” he said, saying this is what the employees do “every day.”

“They journey with the people they serve through very challenging difficulties—and they do so with the love and care of our Savior.”

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Etienne said he was grateful for the employees and leadership at the services center for their quick response in following safety protocols. He also thanked the Seattle Police Department and other first responders.

“I encourage anyone who is struggling during these difficult times, or who has a loved one who is struggling, to reach out for help,” Etienne said. “Our Catholic community is here to support you through our parishes, Catholic Community Services, or our mental health ministries. Please remember that you are not alone.” 


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