August 19, 2016
A palpable aura of tranquility and respect pervaded the gathering of mourners that filled to capacity Our Lord of Mercy Catholic Church in Hatch on the evening of August 17th. All had come to honor the recently slain local police officer, José Chávez, cut down days earlier allegedly by men fleeing from authorities for an apparent crime in Ohio.
In a beautiful vigil ceremony designed by Our Lord of Mercy’s pastor, Rev. Alejandro Reyes, and with Las Cruces Bishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramírez, C.S.B., presiding, attendees heard words of consolation taken from Sacred Scripture. Addressing the deceased officer’s family, as well as his law enforcement colleagues present, Bishop Ramírez spoke about Officer Chávez and his heroic death as paralleling Jesus’ own violent execution over two thousand years ago.
Following the vigil, decorated commemorative wooden crosses were presented to the deceased’s family and colleagues to be carried in procession from the church to the site of the officer’s murder. Under a full moon that illuminated the clear skies over Hatch, the post-vigil procession covered its roughly one-mile distance as Fr. Alejandro led mourners in praying the rosary and in the singing of hymns. Police and fire department personnel in official vehicles, with lights ablaze, ensured the safety of all as the mourners followed their route.
And arriving at the site of the officer’s death, a final act of tribute was rendered to José Chávez with the release of a flock of white doves that quickly disappeared into the dark New Mexico skies.
This touching diocesan ceremony was only one of many community manifestations of support for the family of Officer Chávez and his colleagues leading up to a final memorial send-off at NMSU’s Pan American Center in Las Cruces this weekend.
May his soul rest in peace.