Priest asks mourners at Jacquelyn Smith's funeral to respond 'with faith ... with forgiveness'

The Providence Journal

Acknowledging the depth of suffering and grief experienced by family and friends of Jacquelyn Smith, who was fatally stabbed in Baltimore on Dec. 1, the Rev. James T. Ruggieri asked mourners at her funeral Saturday to bring “good” from the “evil” of her slaying.

In a 16-minute homily to a gathering of more than 200 at St. Patrick Church, Ruggieri said that “some things don't make sense. They’re hard to fathom and understand.”

Smith’s death — said by her husband, Keith Smith, to be from the stabbing by a man after she tried to give money to a panhandler — is such an event, the priest said. Police have not made an arrest in her death.

“You're sitting here thinking, ‘This shouldn’t be, because Jacqui was a good person. She was trying to do something generous the night that she was murdered,’ ” said Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick's, a short distance down Smith Street from the State House.

Smith grew up in Providence, and her connection to the city remained strong. At the time of her death, the 54-year-old was an electrical engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground. A memorial service for Smith was held in Churchville on Dec. 7.

“God brings good out of evil,” Ruggieri said Saturday. “God brings good out of bad. And that’s uniquely God. I can't do that, but God can. So, out of situations like Jacqui’s death, what good can come of this? I think that question is still to be answered, but a lot depends on your response and my response.”

And perhaps the question could be reframed, the priest said.

“Maybe better asked: ‘What good can I do in response to this inhumanity? What good can I do to try to bring some balance back to the insanity we see sometimes around us?’ "

He continued: "This is a time of suffering, I know, for many of you ... [but] instead of blaming God, instead of cursing the Lord, I pray that we may turn to the Lord and recognize his presence in our midst. I also pray that we also not tire of doing good. I think misinterpreting Jacqui’s end — 'here she was trying to do good and look at what resulted' — can be a very dangerous lens.”

And so, Ruggieri implored mourners not to withdraw into themselves.

“We can make a difference,” he said. “We can respond with faith, with charity, with forgiveness. That’s another thing that’s so important: We have to forgive those who commit heinous crimes like this.”

In closing, the priest asked Smith’s family and friends to look to her example.

“Please don’t tire of doing good. Please don’t tire of extending mercy and compassion to those who are in need. And please, if we could just practice more forgiveness, we might see more wholehearted transformation in our society. Father forgive them, forgive me, because sometimes we know not.”

gwmiller@providencejournal.com

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