Parishioners Murdered in Newton, Massachusetts, Were ‘Very Involved in the Church,’ Pastor Says
Father Dan Riley told CNA that parishioners are shocked and filled with grief but are supporting each other with ‘deep faith that Jesus is risen and they are with the Lord.’ Cardinal Seán O’Malley will offer a Mass for the deceased in Rome.
A “Mass of peace” is being offered Tuesday evening for the souls of three longtime parishioners at Sacred Heart and Our Lady’s Collaborative in Newton, Massachusetts, after the devastating news that they were found dead in their home from what the local district attorney’s office has labeled a triple homicide.
Gilda D’Amore, 73; her husband, Bruno D’Amore, 74; and Lucia Arpino, 97, Gilda’s mother, were found deceased in a bedroom of their home on Saturday morning after the couple failed to show for a preplanned 50th-wedding anniversary celebration and 10am Mass.
The three attended church at Our Lady, Help of Christians in Newton for decades, which is now part of a collaborative with Sacred Heart Church in Newton.
“They were the salt of the earth,” Father Dan Riley, pastor of the church, told CNA on Tuesday, adding that all three were very involved in the life of the parish.
Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley issued a statement Tuesday, calling their deaths “brutal and senseless murders” that “will stay with us as we come to terms with this unimaginable loss.”
“They lived their Catholic faith proudly and in service to the Church,” he added.
It was revealed in court Tuesday that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which conducted the autopsy of Gilda D’Amore, ruled the cause of death to be a homicide from approximately 30 sharp-force and blunt-force wounds to her head, face, neck and upper extremities.
The autopsies of her husband and mother were scheduled for Tuesday.
A Newton resident, 41-year-old Christopher Ferguson, was arrested and charged with murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, and burglary in connection with the deaths, to which he pleaded not guilty on Tuesday at his arraignment in Newton District Court while appearing on Zoom.
Ferguson is being held without bail.
Following the completion of the autopsies, additional charges could be brought, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Monday.
The DA’s office said in its statement that at this time the killings “appear to be a random act.”
Father Riley said that the D’Amores and Arpino were “awesome people” who were “very involved in the church.”
“They were the best version of Catholic Italian-Americans you could ever believe,” he added.
Paul and Ginny Arpino, who are on the parish staff and are cousins of the D’Amores (Arpino is an aunt), sent an email to the parish that was shared with CNA asking for prayers “for them, most especially for their three children and their five grandchildren.”
The email said that Gilda, whom the Arpinos called “Jill,” cared for the flowers in the church and decorations for the liturgical seasons.
“She spent endless hours in the care of our church,” the email said.
“Bruno was known for his big voice and his exuberant personality, and as ‘head chef’ he proudly flipped the burgers at the parish picnic,” the email said.
Lucia “never missed a 10 a.m. Mass” until COVID-19, the email said. She and her husband, Alberto, would typically sit in the north end section of the church consistently for more than 60 years, the email said.
“Lucia will be especially missed on the upcoming Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festa weekend, as she faithfully walked in that procession through the streets of Nonantum [a village in Newton] well into her 90s,” the Arpinos wrote.
Father Riley told CNA that parishioners are shocked and filled with grief but are supporting each other with “deep faith that Jesus is risen and they are with the Lord.”
“We grieve, but with hope, as the Scripture says,” he added.
Mass at the Vatican
Cardinal O’Malley said in his statement that he was in Rome and would offer Mass for the D’Amores and Arpino at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
“As priests, we serve to minister to people in times of great loss and tragedy. Often words are not enough to help families and friends come to terms with the loss of a loved one. We look to God for answers,” he said.
“We seek to understand. Often, we simply cannot make sense of what has happened. But our faith sustains us, and in this moment of enormous pain, we know that God is with us always,” Cardinal O’Malley added.
“They loved Christ and the Church,” he said of the D’Amores and Arpino.
Cardinal O’Malley also said that the parishioners at the collaborative parish; the pastor, Father Riley; the parish staff; and the entire community of Newton would also be remembered in prayers.
“We give thanks for the parish community of Our Lady, Help of Christians and the surrounding Catholic communities coming together to support and care for each other. With God’s help, we will remember the gift of the lives of Gilda, Bruno, and Lucia.”
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
The Mass is being held at 6:30pm at Our Lady, Help of Christians Church at 573 Washington St. in Newton on Tuesday.
Funeral details have not been decided upon yet, according to the Archdiocese of Boston.