‘A time to heal’: Families and friends recalls loved ones
Psychology grad Alex Teves was a peacemaker
By Jean Torkelson
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Tom and Caren Teves were out-of-state visitors, looking for a Sunday Mass. From that chance meeting came a profound connection between a pastor and a family grieving for their son who was lost in the Aurora theater shootings on July 20.
“They literally walked in five minutes before Mass started,” said Msgr. Edward Buelt, pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield. “I inquired if they were visitors, and what brought them to Denver. They replied that their son was killed in the shooting. Then they broke down.”
For the parents of 24-year-old Alex Teves and for Msgr. Buelt, the July 22 Mass became a most unexpected and powerful liturgy. It not only forged a lasting link between priest and family, it included a dramatic, divine gesture of consolation that happened at the moment of the Eucharistic Prayer.
“The moment I said, ‘Remember your servant, Alex,’” recalled Msgr. Buelt, “the sun broke through the stained glass window and struck them in the face. At that moment they knew that they were where they needed to be.”
As Tom Teves remembered it, “Caren was crying and I wasn’t feeling too good either,” he told the Denver Catholic Register from their home in Phoenix.
“As soon as Father Buelt said Alex’s name, the sun popped into the (dome) window. It didn’t slide in—it popped in, and the light was so brilliant we couldn’t see the altar. And it just stayed there. It never moved for like, 10 minutes.”
The eight-sided dome window is a classic symbol of eternal life, Msgr. Buelt said, and therefore a fitting sign of God’s consolation.
A stranger to the family until that Sunday, two days later Msgr. Buelt offered Alex’s funeral Mass in Denver, and last Saturday concelebrated his memorial Mass and burial in Phoenix.
The pastor’s continuing outreach to the family has deeply affected Tom Teves, a blunt-spoken business executive.
“What kind of guy is that?” Teves said. “I don’t gush, but that man is one of the best men we’ve ever met. When the Lord comes back, I think he’ll start in his parish.”
Msgr. Buelt plans to remain the Teves’ pastor in Colorado, available for them whenever they return for court hearings or other legal issues. He also believes the family’s personal tragedy is confirmation of a dangerously violent society.
“We refuse to address violence, we dance around the question and disguise it as a conversation about gun control when that’s not the issue—the issue is we have created a violent society, we are entertained by violence, and we are violent in our entertainment,” Msgr. Buelt said.
Until society owns up to the spiritual consequences of violence—from the womb to the streets to entertainment—peace cannot follow, he added.
The victims of this violence included Alex Teves, a young man newly graduated from the University of Denver with a master’s degree in psychology, who lived on ramen noodles, liked to joke, loved his girlfriend, was best friends with his Mom, wore a T-shirt saying “Free Hugs,” and was known as a peacemaker. In short, said Msgr. Buelt, “he was a normal, ordinary, but well-developed young man.”
Said Tom Teves: “We’re the ones who will miss him. Alex is doing just fine.”