Good Shepherd reaches out during synagogue hostage crisis
COLLEYVILLE — As the tense hours of a January 15 hostage standoff situation unfolded at Congregation Beth Israel, so too did an unbelievable manifestation of faith and community at nearby Good Shepherd Parish, Father Zachary Burns, TOR, said.
“Just seeing not only the Good Shepherd community but people from other faiths and the community in general coming together to help one another was so unbelievable,” the parochial vicar said.
A British citizen identified as Malik Faisal Akram entered Congregation Beth Israel armed that morning during the synagogue’s Sabbath morning service and took four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, and engaged in an 11-hour standoff with law enforcement officials. All four were eventually released unharmed though Akram was killed in the incident.
Officials from numerous law enforcement agencies and media outlets made use of Good Shepherd's parking lot and facilities during the standoff.
“We were able to open the parish hall for them and congregants from Congregation Beth Israel so they could get out of the cold, warm up, and get coffee,” said Diocese of Fort Worth Director of Security Mike Short.
Short oversaw the diocesan Guardian Ministers’ efforts to assist law enforcement officials.
“We had a great response from [Guardian Ministers] from throughout the diocese who provided security and help throughout the day,” Short said. “It was amazing — the support from staff, parishioners, other faith leaders and members, and the community just pulling together to do everything they could to help.”
Fr. Burns praised the Guardian Ministers.
“I cannot even begin to tell you how thankful we are for our Guardian Ministers,” Fr. Burns said. “So thankful we have these guys willing to be that line of defense and yesterday’s response was unbelievable. I couldn't begin to tell you how many Guardians showed up.”
Members of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith backgrounds and a representative from the city attended a prayer vigil in Good Shepherd’s chapel.
“It was a late development deal that lasted about 45 minutes,” Fr. Burns said. “Just a chance for anyone to get up and offer a prayer or reflection, just people trying to support each other.”
Food prepared for a marriage ministry event scheduled that night that was canceled was donated to feed those on hand. Parishioners and others arrived throughout the day with food and offers to help.
“We actually got more requests to help than we could take,” Short said.
Fr. Burns, who came to the parish about two years ago from “up north” joked that he was told beforehand that people in Texas, Catholic and otherwise, tend to live out their faith in everyday life.
“That was very evident today,” Fr. Burns said.
Bishop Michael Olson agreed.
“Thanks be to God for their safety,” Bishop Olson tweeted after the hostages’ safe release.
Bishop Olson went on to thank the leaders of Good Shepherd, first responders, and members of Congregation Beth Israel.
Fr. Burns noted that Rabbi Cytron-Walker, a proponent of interfaith dialogue, has long been a friend of Good Shepherd.
“My whole time here has been under the pandemic, so I haven’t had a chance to meet with many area leaders of other faiths,” Fr. Burns said. “But myself and [Good Shepherd Pastor Father Michael Higgins, TOR] had lunch with Rabbi Charlie recently and it’s ironic that yesterday I saw maybe the largest interfaith gathering I’ve ever seen out of what was a very hectic and tragic day.”