Archdiocese of Baltimore ministers to victims’ families, stranded crew of bridge collapse

Baltimore bridge Workers continue to investigate and search for victims after the cargo ship Dali collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse yesterday, on March 27, 2024, in Baltimore. | Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

In the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s collapse on Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has been at the forefront of efforts to help the victims.

Archbishop William Lori called for prayer and held a special Mass for the victims Tuesday evening at Baltimore’s Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen. Among the victims are two injured and six missing construction workers, who are presumed dead, and 22 who were stranded aboard the Singaporean ship that crashed into the bridge.

Father Ako Walker, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Highlandtown, Maryland, has been visiting with the missing victims’ families, offering spiritual and emotional comfort. He told CNA that the six missing men have families who are now heartbroken and in shock over the loss of their loved ones.

“They were fathers, they were breadwinners, they were sons,” he said.

As authorities have yet to recover six of the victims, Walker said he has been ministering to their families by simply giving them his “accompaniment and presence.”

“It’s very, very difficult to receive the news of the possibility that you may not see your loved one alive again,” Walker said. “They have been struggling to come to terms. They have been asking questions and of course, it being very early on, it’s difficult to give very definite responses to the questions that they have.”  

“For many of them, it’s been a waiting game. My role is to wait with them, to journey with them until they get some definitive news as regards to their loved ones,” he explained.

Andrew Middleton, who leads the archdiocese’s Apostleship of the Sea ministry, was one of the first people to communicate with the crew of the ship, called the “Dali,” just hours after its catastrophic electrical failure and collision with the Key Bridge.

After losing power on Tuesday morning, the Dali hit one of the bridge’s beams, causing much of the 1.6-mile-long bridge to collapse into the Patapsco River by downtown Baltimore.  

Middleton had been with the ship’s captain and some of the crew members days before to help them shop for supplies. After hearing the news, he quickly messaged a crew member who responded confirming that everyone onboard had survived and was safe.

For now, the 22 crew members of the ship, who are from India, remain stranded aboard the Dali amid the wreckage in the Patapsco.

Middleton explained that as foreign nationals, the crew may face legal complications if they try to return to land, as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol would have to grant them special permission. Middleton said the crew is currently communicating with crew members via WhatsApp. He said he has offered to help them with supplies and assured them of his ministry’s prayer.

“Throughout the day yesterday I would just periodically check in, make sure everybody was still doing okay, remind them that we were available for them and that we were praying for them and to not hesitate to reach out to me if they needed anything,” he explained.

Middleton said that when the Dali is eventually allowed to dock, Apostleship of Sea will be ready with food and basic necessities for the crew.

As part of the archdiocese’s ministry to seafarers, Middleton explained that he and other ministry members focus their efforts on the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the poor.

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Middleton said he wants to ensure “we’re reminding seafarers of their God-given human dignity.”

According to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, crew members were able to send a distress signal after losing power so that police officers were able to close the bridge in time to prevent further casualties.

However, eight construction workers, immigrants from Latin America, were unable to escape and were on the impacted portion of the bridge. They had been working to fill potholes on the bridge when the Dali collided with it, sending the men into the icy river below. 

Two were rescued and survived but after searching much of Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard ended its active rescue efforts and the six remaining victims are now presumed dead, according to local news station WBAL-TV

Watch “EWTN News Nightly’”s coverage of the Key Bridge collapse. 

One missing victim has been identified by the migrant aid group CASA as Miguel Luna, an El Salvadoran immigrant, husband, and father of three. According to CASA, Luna had been a resident of Maryland for the last 19 years.

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Another missing victim has been identified as Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, a Honduran national, husband, and father of two who had been in the U.S. for 18 years, according to CNN.

The governments of Mexico and Guatemala have also confirmed some of their nationals were victims of the bridge’s collapse, per CNN.

Father Walker told CNA that the families of the missing, among them some who have small children, are in “immediate need.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Esperanza Center is working to coordinate aid for the victims’ families in the wake of their loss, he said.

Besides considering financial contributions to help the victims’ families, Walker also asked for the faithful across the country to pray.

“While this is an earthly thing and it’s physical, it’s also spiritual,” he said. “Some of them are having a difficult time and they are outwardly expressing their grief, tears, and so on, and others are just quiet, so I don’t know if the quietness is acceptance or just numbness.”

“My suggestion,” he went on, “is that we entrust all of this to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, she who accompanied Jesus on the journey and she who observed that her son was maligned, was not treated properly, that suffered.”

“As the victims themselves go through their own suffering and as all of us look on, because all of us are suffering, too, whether indirectly or directly, we [should] remember that we have our Mother Mary who knows very well how to journey with us and who knows how to comfort us in this very, very difficult situation,” he said.

“I commend and entrust all this entire situation to our Mother Mary, who knows fully well that with God, all things are possible.”

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