Homicide victims remembered at annual memorial prayer service

SALEM HEIGHTS – About 40 people attended a Jan. 12 memorial prayer service at Salem Heights to remember those killed by violence in Dayton, Harrison Township and Trotwood.

Residents, victims’ family members and local law enforcement representatives – including Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer – joined Precious Blood Sisters for the service. The annual event is an outgrowth of the homicide vigils the Sisters help organize each time a person is killed by violence in the three communities around Salem Heights. A group of people visits the site of the death to pray and remember the victim. The vigils culminate each year with the memorial service, now in its third year.

As part of the service, the names of the 25 people lost to violence last year were read aloud, each accompanied by a chime. The group also prayed, sang and shared their stories of losing a friend or family member to violence. Laura Phillips, whose nephew was killed several years ago and regularly attends the vigils, said it is important to support victims’ families. “The pain never goes away,” she added.

The vigils originally began in the late 1990s, but were suspended for several years. The practice was restarted in 2006. The vigils are held on the Saturday following a homicide, and typically draw 20-25 people.

“It’s always asking God to help us change things,” said Sister Jeanette Buehler (M. Paul Agnes), who organizes the vigils. “It raises a conscience of how much violence there really is in our city. It re-blesses the neighborhood where the violence is occurring.”

She recalled that in one instance residents of the neighborhood participated in the vigil. In another, a resident came up to the group and thanked them for being there. In yet a third instance, the group was holding a vigil and a stranger driving by stopped and joined in. The group doesn’t judge the victim.

“We truly believe the vigils are making a difference in the conscience of the city,” Sister Jeanette said. “I think this gives residents some hope that people out there really do care.”

After the service, members of the group joined the Sisters living at Salem Heights for food and fellowship.

- By Dave Eck