Members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church hosted a candlelight vigil Wednesday as showing of mourning and support for a lesbian couple shot in Portland, Texas June 23. One of the victims, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, was killed in the attack.
News of the tragedy has been met in Chicago with sorrow. About a dozen people stayed for a contemplative service at the church, 621 W. Belmont Ave., dedicated to the two victims and hopes for the survival of her girlfriend, Mary Christine Chapa, 18.
As Deacon Rev. Nancy Meyer began the opening hymn, participants solemnly lit candles and planted them in box urns at the foot of the altar. A parishioner read an excerpt from Henry Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved, about communities coming together to overcome adversity, just as civil rights marchers did in Selma in 1965.
Catherine Thomson, chairwoman of the Peace and Justice Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, was inspired to put the vigil together.
“I was surprised that a story of this nature had received so little coverage,” she said. “As a long-time advocate for an end to gun-violence and discrimination, the story touched me very deeply.”
The victims were found lying in the grass at a Portland park hours after the shooting. Olgin was pronounced dead at the scene as Chapa, with a gunshot wound to the head, was rushed to the hospital where she remains in serious but stable condition, reported Corpus Christi NBC affiliate KRISTV.
No arrests have been made.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times quoted Portland Police Chief Randy Wright as saying on Tuesday, “There’s no evidence to suggest that this crime was committed as a bias against the girls or their lifestyle.”
News that the victims were a lesbian couple continues to fuel speculation that the shooting was a hate crime. Human Rights Campaign and Equality Texas urged continued investigation, even reaching out to the U.S. Attorney General and the FBI.
Newly appointed President of Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin issued a statement: “Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable.”
Community members in attendance at the vigil expressed sadness.
“To juxtapose the jubilation of the pride parade on Sunday against this tragic story of loss and violence is heartbreaking,” said Thomson.
She expressed concern about the possibility that the incident was an act of hate by a Christian fundamentalist.
When asked what Thomson hoped people would get out of the evening’s event. She said, “I hope that by inviting people of all faiths and non-faith to join together, we will find purpose in an unfolding realization of our common experience, meeting in a safe space where authenticity, compassion and connection heighten our awareness of issues that affect us all and inspire and strengthen us to stand together for justice and peace among all people and respect for the dignity of every human being.”
San Francisco held a vigil on Wednesday night. Equality Texas has invited the public to a candlelit memorial walk on June 29 at Violet Andrews Park, where the shootings happened. HRC is planning to hold a similar event at DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C.
Olgin’s obituary reads, “Mollie touched the lives of everyone and will always be remembered for her intelligence, beauty, compassion, humor and her kind heart.”
Her memorial service will be held on June 29.