(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — In the afternoon on Thursday, March 3, the neighborhood was quiet, as a workday neighborhood tends to be. A delivery truck was parked in the street a couple of blocks away. An older RV was parked in the corner lot across the street from the church entrance.
Inside Holy Trinity Catholic Church (2220 Reed St.), stained glass windows climb and line both walls. In one square of the glass, a hole — about the size of a silver dollar — was covered with plastic.
On the afternoon of Feb. 20, a 16-year-old fired several gunshots from a vehicle window at two people, police say. The result was a bullet crashing through the church’s stained glass, crossing above the pews and striking the marble wall beneath another window on the opposite side of the building.
The Rev. Jason Glover received the call that night from a senior associate at the church. The senior associate said he was coming home from dinner and as he pulled into the garage, he heard “pops.”
“The pops didn’t register (as gunshots) because you don’t expect that sort of thing,” the Rev. Glover recalled during an interview on March 3.
When another set of gunshots rang out, the senior associate realized the situation and locked the doors.
In total, Glover said, more than 60 bullet casings were found after the shooting.
The church has about 300 registered families. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the church boasted about 150 people for every mass, but now with the pandemic, those numbers have shrunk to about 80 people. Still, Glover said the church has a “pretty involved group of people that work with the community.”
The parishioners collect charitable donations which are sent to Catholic relief services for refugees. The parish also takes up a separate collection for interchurch ministries which helps with “just about anything – clothing, food, and I’ve even heard hotel stays and used cars,” Glover said.
But on Feb. 20, the violence that has permeated the city — with multiple teenagers involved in separate shootings in the month of February — had struck the church itself.
“It’s one of those things where the church has been a pillar here for generations, and all the good we’ve provided to the neighborhood and surrounding community… It shakes you up,” Glover said. “Parishioners are shaken up. Somehow they’re caught in the crosshairs.”
Glover has been a priest for nearly 20 years (his 20-year anniversary will be in June). A Pennsylvania native, he said he has always had a desire to help people.
“I thought I would go into medicine, to be honest,” Glover said. “Then someone once said people need a lot more healing than physical. And I thought I’d give (the priesthood) a try. I thought I’d last a year and be done. So the story goes – I fell in love with it, stuck with it, and I’m glad I did it.”
In times like these, Glover lets his faith guide his response.
“I don’t know that there is an adequate response to it,” Glover said. “We don’t let it deter the goodness that we continue to offer to the community. I think faith has to inform the response. Any time we confront violence or sin in any form, we use our faith as our moral guide.”
While posing for a photo during the interview, Glover found a piece of the broken stained glass on a pew. The stained-glass window depicts the Virgin Mary holding an infant Jesus. The bullet missed both and struck a panel with a decorative gray and gold pattern.
Glover lives at Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church (on East 12th Street). He recalled two weeks before the incident he had been cooking dinner. An alley that connects East 12th and 13th Streets is just outside his kitchen window. While cooking, he heard “fireworks.”
“I looked out and saw one man yelling and running with a firearm, unloading his firearm at somebody,” he said. “I’ve lived in Baltimore and Washington, and I’ve heard gunshots before. But when you actually see someone shooting, it’s very unsettling.”
The church has filed an insurance claim. Glover said he asked if they should pursue repair estimates, but the insurance company had said that was premature, so the church waits, with plastic over the gunshot hole in its stained-glass window.
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Glover said they’re keeping the church doors open and they still feel connected to the community.
“When we’re faced with a challenge of the violence that we confront, it’s the evidence of the need. Obviously some reconciliation needs to happen in the neighborhood – this is one of a series of shootings that have happened in this community,” Glover said. “So we have to ask in what way can faith be facilitating that reconciliation?”