Parish mourns construction worker who perished in bridge collapse

4 mins read
Mourners gather at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baltimore April 13, 2024, for the funeral of Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, who was killed in the March 26 collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge. (OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Baltimore)

BALTIMORE (OSV News) — Many of the mourners who approached the open gray metal casket at the end of the April 13 funeral Mass for Dorlian Castillo Cabrera seemed almost in a state of disbelief.

Some wept, while others dropped to their knees or hugged family and loved ones as they gazed on the body of the 26-year-old Catholic construction worker from Guatemala who perished in the March 26 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

Mourning Dorlian Castillo Cabrera

In his homily during the funeral at Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Church in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood, Redemptorist Father Ako Walker tried to reassure a congregation of more than 150 that death does not have the final say.

“We, as followers of Christ, know perfectly well, dear brothers and sisters, that we are bidding a temporary farewell this evening to our dear brother because one day we are going to see him again,” the pastor said in Spanish. “It is in our faith, and these words are not empty words. They are words of Christ’s promise, and these words help us in our sadness because, in this situation, we must speak the truth of the situation, and although we have many questions, the truth we have is Jesus Christ.”

Dorlian Castillo Cabrera is shown in his Facebook profile photo. The construction worker, who had been working on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, died March 26, 2024, when a container ship hit bridge, causing its collapse. (OSV News photo/Facebook)

During the funeral, the casket was closed, but it was opened for a vigil before and after the liturgy. Family members, loved ones and community leaders including Maryland Democratic Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller paid their respects.

Honoring the victims of the bridge collapse

Father Walker has been accompanying the families of the six workers who perished after a large container ship lost power and collided into the bridge, precipitating its collapse. He was with the families as they awaited word of their loved ones deaths and he has been walking with them ever since.

In addition to Cabrera, the other construction workers who lost their lives were Miguel Luna, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, Jose Mynor Lopez, Carlos Hernandez and Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes. All were immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The bodies of Cabrera and Fuentes were recovered in a red pickup truck from the frigid waters of the Patapsco River.

Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús hosted an April 8 prayer service and candlelit procession in memory of the victims. It was attended by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski.

In his homily at the Cabrera funeral Mass, Father Walker reflected on the fact that the construction workers lost their lives during Holy Week, a time when Christians recall Christ’s triumph over death.

“We are celebrating this evening with sadness in our hearts, yes, but we are celebrating the life of a man, and we need to celebrate this gift of life that he enjoyed during the Easter season to help us in faith (know) that Jesus overcame death so that we can live eternally,” Father Walker said. “Jesus had to suffer death to overcome it, and his death and resurrection will help us to enjoy eternal life.”

In an interview prior to the funeral Mass, Father Walker said he visited Cabrera’s Baltimore-area home and met his three nieces, who expressed to him their deep love for their uncle.

“He was caring, he was loving and he was attendent to his nieces,” Father Walker told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “He was very, very hardworking.”

Parish outreach

Although none of the victims were parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús and not all were Catholic, Father Walker made the church available for funerals. His bilingual parish is predominantly Hispanic with large representation from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

“I felt that opening our doors to the families was just the right thing to do,” he said.

Father Walker noted that the parish council is working on plans to form groups of parishioners that can provide ongoing support to the families of those who died.

“They are parishioners who want to visit them and who want them to know that they are being supported prayer-wise,” he said.

Archdiocese establishes relief fund

The Archdiocese of Baltimore established the Francis Scott Key Bridge Relief Fund, which has raised more than $170,000, including a recent $100,000 pledge from the Knights of Columbus.

The fund supports ministry at Sacred Heart of Jesus and the parish’s work with partners such as Catholic Charities-run Esperanza Center to meet the ongoing needs of the victims’ families and others in the city who face job losses. That could include assistance for housing costs, medical and mental health treatment, and replacement for lost wages.

The Knights of Columbus was, of course, shocked by the collapse of Baltimore’s Key Bridge and especially saddened by the tragic loss of life,” said Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly in a written statement. “Blessed Michael McGivney founded the Knights over 140 years ago to support widows and orphans. So it was only natural that, upon learning of the death of six road workers — including husbands and fathers from the Catholic Hispanic community — we were moved to join with the Church in Baltimore in providing aid to their widows and orphans.”

The archdiocese also has raised $25,000 for Apostleship of the Sea, an archdiocesan ministry that supports international seafarers at the Port of Baltimore.

Andrew Middleton, director of Apostleship of the Sea, has been supporting members of the crew on the cargo ship that rammed into the bridge and caused its collapse. The ministry also has been arranging Masses and providing other support for the crews of additional ships stranded at the port.

“I am hoping that they will see that Sacred Heart of Jesus is a safe space,” Father Walker said. “That this is a welcoming community, and that we are willing to embrace them in this very, very difficult and trying circumstance.”

Love and prayerful support

The pastor said the families will need “love and prayerful support” long after the “loud noise quiets down.” He also said more focus needs to be placed on the rights of immigrant workers and issues of justice.

“It’s not at all being political,” he said. “It’s being true to what Jesus preached — and Jesus had a preferential option for the poor and those who found themselves at the margins of society. And our Latino brothers and sisters have constantly found themselves at the periphery of society — even though they make a significant contribution to the development of the United States.”

OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.