February 8, 1996 in Nation/World

Church Loses 2 Parishioners To Violent Acts Coeur D’Alene’s St. Pius Catholic Church Says Farewell To Two Women Gunned Down In Separate Tragedies

By The Spokesman-Review
 

St. Pius Catholic Church parishioners will say goodbye this week to two of their own who were gunned down within days of each other.

Teacher Leona “Lee” Caires and Ridpath Hotel waitress Marie Van Slate, both 49, were longtime members of the Catholic church in Coeur d’Alene.

Parishioners are in a state of shock over the violent deaths and the coincidental ties to their church.

Caires was shot Friday by a student in her Moses Lake classroom, and Van Slate was shot Tuesday by a customer in the Spokane hotel’s main-floor restaurant.

“They didn’t just die - they were shot,” said parishioner Patty Jacobs, with tears brimming in her eyes.

Both women were known inside and outside the congregation for their selflessness.

The church - attended by more than 1,000 families - is expected to overflow today for Caires’ funeral Mass. Caires returned to Coeur d’Alene every weekend from her Moses Lake job.

“It’s affected such a neat (church) community,” Jacobs said. “I think it will bring us closer together.”

Once, recalled former St. Pius pastor Andy Schumacher, Van Slate picked up a woman hitchhiking along the freeway. She brought her to the church and asked Schumacher if the woman could use a shower in his home.

After she cleaned up the hitchhiker and got her some clean clothes, Van Slate bought her a bus ticket so she could continue her journey, said Schumacher, who moved to Boise after about seven years at St. Pius.

“She challenged the whole parish to be concerned about the needy and the poor,” Schumacher remembered.

Van Slate used to work part time for the church’s outreach ministry for the poor. A divorced mother of three girls, Van Slate made personal sacrifices so she could send her children to Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Schumacher said.

Church members noted the bizarre coincidence that two women from their church died in separate random shootings in Washington. Leaders at St. Pius, however, said the tragedies may be a test of sorts.

“Maybe it happened to this community because they are capable of responding,” Schumacher suggested.

“God chooses his best people, his best families to do his most important work,” said St. Pius church Deacon Walt Jackson. “Having awakened from our sense of false security, we may be able to accomplish for ourselves and for others the changes we need to make in our society.”

Once members get over their shock, they may be empowered to work toward a society where “violence is no longer accepted,” he said.

Although the double tragedy is hard on the families and the parish, the Rev. Roger LaChance said they will recover.

“You thank God for how people have touched you and remember how they’ve touched us even in death, and you move on with faith and hope,” he said.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Van Slate fund Donations can be made to the Marie Van Slate Fund at any branch of the Washington Trust Bank or Northern State Bank. Money will go to her children.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Van Slate fund Donations can be made to the Marie Van Slate Fund at any branch of the Washington Trust Bank or Northern State Bank. Money will go to her children.


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