Community remembers student killed outside school
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
LIBERTY - White turbans, long black braids and saris mingled with jeans, sweaters and pony tails as St. James Catholic Church and school families gathered with members of the Sikh community to remember a fourth grader who loved soccer, Harry Potter, KFC, Mountain Dew and Milky Way candy bars.
Marty Denzer/Key photo
St. James parishioners and friends of Kawaldeep Singh hold lighted candles during a ceremony to bless and reclaim the scene of the shooting.
The haunting soprano voice of a young boy rose above the noise of over 600 people filing into St. James Church for the memorial service for Kawaldeep Singh, who was shot and killed Nov. 7. His father, Jaswinder P. Singh, has been charged in his death.
The service was a celebration of Kawaldeep's life. The fourth grade teachers, Chris Venditti and Patti Williams, reflected on the boy, both as a student and a youngster they had come to know and love:
"He wanted to be a doctor when he grew up."
"He said he was good at friendships because he had the right ones."
"Our hearts will be heavy for a while ... but we thank God for bringing Kawaldeep to our school."
The elder Singh is in jail, awaiting trial. At Singh's Nov. 12 arraignment on charges of murder, assault and armed criminal action, the judge entered a not guilty plea.
Kawaldeep's mother, Mandeep Kaur (meaning princess, an honorary title given to Sikh women) Singh, who was wounded in the shooting, is recovering. Although still in the hospital, her condition has been upgraded to "good." She was unable to attend the memorial service, but several members of her family, including a brother who lives in London, were there.
Kawaldeep's younger sister, Harneet Kaur Singh, was also present.
Precious Blood Father Ron Will, pastor of St. James Parish, and Karnail Delku, Secretary of Church, Midwest Sikh Association, led the assembly in prayer, one in English, the other in his native Gurmukhi, which is similar to Farsi.
A video clip of Kawaldeep leading his classmates in an Indian dance during the school's multi-cultural fair last year brought smiles and tears to many of those present, including Charanjit S. Hundal, of the Midwest Sikh Association.
"God's love is what we seek tonight. And love for other human beings," Hundal told the audience. "We are of different faiths, but we share a common love for our fellow human beings. We pray for a child who was soft-spoken, who respected his elders, and who would go out of his way to make those who were sad, happy. We pray for his mother and his sister, and for the opportunity to show God's love to each other. There will be a better day when we will get to know each other."
Kawaldeep's classmates brought his empty desk to the altar during the service. A procession of children, walking two by two, placed symbols that reminded them of Kawaldeep on and around the desk: teddy bears, stuffed elephants, books, his school sweatshirt, flowers and artwork - soccer posters, and the flag of India.
Father Patrick Rush, vicar general of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, spoke on behalf of Bishop Raymond J. Boland, who was out of town.
"Out of the darkness I've seen a lot of light this evening," he said. "I've seen the light of a community drawing together to help each other. I've seen the light of self-sacrificing for the good of others. I've seen the light of prayer for Kawaldeep, for his sister, his mother, and for his father. I've seen the light of forgiveness for a man whose rage changed the lives of his family and of St. James Parish."
Led by a hand bell choir, the silent assembly filed out to the school parking lot, carrying lighted candles. They gathered at the spot where the shooting took place, a few feet away from the school's entrance.
Father Will sprinkled the asphalt with holy water to reclaim the area for the school and the church family. "Amazing Grace" began faintly, then swelled as adults and children planted their candles in foil-covered bins filled with sand.
Slowly, family groups, hugging and touching their children, drifted back into the parish's social hall. The breeze picked up, but the candles still burned bright.