Minnesota Catholics come together to pray rosary for fallen first responders

by Anna Wilgenbusch, OSV News

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (OSV News) — Over 75 Catholics gathered Feb. 24 at Burnsville City Hall to pray a rosary for two police officers and a firefighter/paramedic shot and killed six days earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance in a home in the Twin Cities suburb.

The gunman, identified by police as Shannon Gooden, died by suicide in the home. He had barricaded himself with his family, including seven children, in a standoff with police that lasted more than three hours.

Police officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, were killed in the Feb. 18 incident, and police Sgt. Adam Medlicott was shot and wounded.

Father Jim Perkl, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville and a police and fire chaplain in the city about 15 miles south of downtown Minneapolis, led the rosary. He stood next to a crucifix and in front of the patrol and fire vehicles of the fallen men. Father Perkl also led a decade of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for Gooden.

Father Perkl encouraged those gathered to not lose hope.

“A good shepherd does not abandon his church. And the officers. . . do not abandon their community either,” Father Perkl said.

The rosary was spearheaded by the Catholic Watchmen, a faith formation and support group for men in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Members of the Watchmen pray a rosary in a public place once a month.

Ruth Laursen, whose husband, Paul, is a member of the Catholic Watchmen, said she suggested to her husband that they pray February’s rosary outside Burnsville City Hall, where community members have placed flowers, signs, cards and stuffed animals as a memorial to the fallen first responders. The invitation to pray soon extended beyond the Catholic Watchmen group and drew Catholics from all over the Twin Cities.

“We’re going to pray for healing. It’s so sad, sad for everybody involved,” Laursen told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “Pray for our first responders and law enforcement. They are under not only a physical but a spiritual assault, too.”

As the prayers of the rosary resounded off the walls of City Hall, community members drove past as part of several commemorative convoys honoring the fallen officers. They signaled their support for the families impacted by the shootings by waving American flags and playing patriotic music as they drove past. Others exited their vehicles to place flowers or notes on the memorials.

Pam Keuler, who attends the Church of St. Michael in Farmington and serves with a pro-life ministry, came to the event to pray for peace.

“I’m here to support these families and pray M. . . y heart goes out to all of the children involved,” said Keuler, who regularly volunteers as a sidewalk counselor outside a Planned Parenthood site. “We just have to keep praying for peace, putting our feet on the ground and praying for peace.”

The morning of the shooting, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis called for prayer on the social media platform X. “Please join me in praying for those who lost their lives in this morning’s tragic incident in Burnsville,” the archbishop said. “We need to lift up as well their families and all first responders who risk their lives for our safety. John 15:13.”

According to local news media, authorities are investigating how Gooden, who had been barred from owning arms after a 2007 assault conviction, came to own the large number of firearms that the police found inside the home where the shooting occurred.

A memorial service for Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth was schedule for Feb. 28 at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Burnsville officials have announced.

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