For Waukesha Catholic community, parade tragedy's devastation 'runs deep'

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CNS) -- It began as an evening of "comfort and joy" -- that was the theme for the 58th annual Waukesha Christmas Parade.

But the evening of Nov. 21, ended in horror just under an hour after the parade began, when a man driving an SUV burst through barricades along the parade route and barreled down Waukesha's Main Street, striking marchers and attendees who included representatives of the Catholic Community of Waukesha.

Five people were killed at the scene and more than 60 others were injured, including the Catholic Community of Waukesha's Father Pat Heppe.

On Nov. 23 Jackson Sparks, 8, died at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin as a result of injuries he sustained in the parade crash, bring the death toll to six. As of Nov. 28, eight children remained hospitalized.

Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, who is accused of driving his SUV through the parade, has been charged with six counts of intentional homicide.

"We're aware that parishioners are injured, we've been in contact with the families and that's really all the details we can give," said Monica Cardenas, director of stewardship and communication for the Catholic Community of Waukesha.

Cardenas said that Father Heppe had been hospitalized for minor injuries and released the day after the parade. Father Matthew Widder, the current pastor of the community's four parishes, also was present at the parade.