Lost miners remembered at church services

HUNTINGTON, Utah –The wrenching search for six lost miners was over, leaving only funerals, a public memorial service and a private committal service for the three Catholic miners attended by family members.
A funeral Mass for Luis Hernandez and Juan Carlos Payan was celebrated Sept. 6 at Mission San Rafael in Huntington. Concelebrated by Father Donald E. Hope, pastor of the mission and other parishes in the area, Father Omar Ontiveros of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and Father Oscar Martinez of St. Joseph Parish in Ogden, the Mass focused on resurrection.
Father Hope called the funeral Mass “a bittersweet occasion,” and encouraged family members to remember the miners as “those who taught you how to love one another. Now we ask God to bring them to himself.”
A second funeral Mass, for Manuel “Manny” Sanchez, was to be celebrated Sept. 15 at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Price.
Also dead as a result of the initial mine cave-in were Kerry Allred, Don Erickson and Brandon Phillips. Three miners who were working to rescue the six died in a second cave-in Aug. 16. They were Dale Black, Gary Jensen and Brandon Kimber.
At an interfaith public memorial service Sept. 9 for all nine miners, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City spoke to the crowd in both English and Spanish. On a deep level, he said, nothing could be further from the truth than all hope is gone.
“Our hope is in God; our hope is in Jesus Christ, who conquered death and gave us eternal life through his cross and resurrection,” he said. “To our eyes, all seems lost. And yet through the eyes of faith, we know that your loved ones continue to live in the kingdom where ‘every tear has been wiped away.’”
Bishop Wester said he believes Jesus has “a special bond with your relatives who perished in the Crandall Canyon Mine.”
“You see, when Jesus was arrested on the eve of his crucifixion, there can be little doubt that he prayed Psalm 88. Scripture scholars tell us that in Jesus’ day a prisoner was detained by lowering him into a pit where he could not escape,” the bishop said.
“Psalm 88 is the prayer of a man who states, ‘I am numbered with those who go down into the pit’; and in another place, ‘You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into the dark abyss,’” he added. “Jesus certainly identified with this psalm in the midst of his suffering on the eve of his crucifixion and I know that this same Jesus was especially close to your relatives in their hour of need.”
Another reason for hope, the bishop said, is that “all of us in Utah are convinced that your relatives are true heroes.”
On Sept. 10, 25 members of the Hernandez and Payan families, led by an Emery County deputy sheriff, made their way up the rugged hill to the seventh bore hole drilled in the fruitless search for the six trapped miners. There, Bishop Wester and Father Hope blessed the ground and said prayers of committal.
Grieving family members lay roses on the pallet covering the uncapped bore hole and released balloons for all nine miners. Each family member sprinkled the site with holy water, and spent silent time in prayer at the site.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.