Archbishop presides over special Mass to honor Monterey Park shooting victims

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez takes a picture with children following a mass in memory of the Monterey Park shooting victims
Archbishop José H. Gomez poses for a photo with Allison Merino, 6, and sister Madison, 8, of Montebello in St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church in Monterey Park on Friday night after a special Mass. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

In the latest of a somber week of memorials since the Monterey Park mass shooting, dozens of people poured into the St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church on Friday night for a service honoring the 11 victims.

At the front of the church was a sign bearing the names of the dead: Mymy Nhan, 65; LiLan Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; Chia Ling Yau, 76; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Ming Wei Ma, 72; and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70.

Father Joseph Magdaong, who presided over the Mass with Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, noted the significance of the shooting falling on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

"Ironically this is the saddest moment for us in Monterey Park," said Magdaong, the pastor of St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Parish.

A man raises his hands while sitting in a church pew with the congregation
The scene inside St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church during Friday night's special Mass. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Alvero had been a parishioner at St. Stephen Martyr, according to Magdaong. He was a Filipino American and a devout Catholic who loved ballroom dancing, his family said. They called it a “great travesty” that he didn’t receive his last rites, a sacrament administered before death.

“Our family would like to request all priests and Catholics to pray for him by name, Valentino Marcos Alvero,” the family wrote in a statement. “He was a faithful servant of God and we know that he would want the world to lift his family in prayer more than anything.”

Alvero's daughter had her wedding at St. Stephen Martyr a few years ago, said Martha Sanchez, a parishioner at Friday night's service.

"When I found out that he was one of the people that was killed, what came to mind was the day of the wedding. It was just so joyful," Sanchez said. "He was so proud to walk her down the aisle. He just beamed."

Alvero also had at least three grandchildren, Sanchez said.

"He was a very nice man," she added. "Very respectful and very loving to his daughter."

Alvero was a “loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three nieces and nephews like his own children," his family said.

Nearby at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, the site of Saturday's mass shooting, two of Alvero's relatives stood in front of his picture where a memorial has sprouted, with visitors leaving bouquets of flowers and lighting candles.

Alvero's relatives both declined to be interviewed, but one recalled that Alvero was "always happy and smiling."

Alvero was "more than just a headline or a news story," the family said in their statement.

“He loved people and hearing about their lives and, in return, he shared his own stories with so much gusto and enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him," the family wrote.

A near-nightly vigil has been held at the site with hundreds passing by each night.

On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Star Ballroom and placed a bouquet at the front.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.