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Miami parish bids farewell to family killed in tower collapse



John Burger - published on 07/08/21 - updated on 07/08/21

"Give my tooth fairy money to St. Jude's Hospital," Lucia Guara told her parents. "Those kids need it more than I do."

The Church of St. Joseph is just two blocks away from the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, which collapsed June 24 and where rescue crews said Wednesday they have given up hope of finding any more survivors. Twelve families who lived in the complex were registered at St. Joseph’s. Four of those families got out of the building safely the night of the collapse or had already sold their property there. 

The Guara family was not one of them.

On Tuesday, St. Joseph’s bid farewell to Marcus Guara, 52, and Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and their two daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, whose bodies were discovered in the wreckage. The two girls were placed in one coffin.

In a homily, Fr. Juan Sosa, pastor, reminded mourners that God never abandons anyone — even if they meet such a tragic end. He pointed to the font where Emma was baptized and to the spot where Lucia received her first Communion in 2019. He placed a photo of Lucia receiving the Eucharist on top of the girls’ casket “as a symbol of her union with Christ.”

“The girls were brought by Marcus and Anaely,” he said. “And now Christ has encountered them at a different stage, in a different moment, because Christ never leaves us abandoned.”

As he did for the funeral of another resident of Champlain Towers who was killed in the collapse, Hilda Noriega, the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega, he told mourners about “how important it is to keep family bonding together.”

“This society in which we live kind of takes us apart,” he said. “It is so important with all the fights and inconveniences … that family support is extremely important.”

As if it were a symbol of the Guara family unity — a fact to which eulogists and mourners attested — they were discovered together. 

Marcus Guara had recently shared a story about daughter Lucia handing him an envelope full of cash from birthdays and the Tooth Fairy. The envelope was addressed to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

The Miami Herald related that Lucia, a student at Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor Islands K-8 School, told her father that the children treated at the hospital, which specializes in childhood cancer and other pediatric disease, “need it more than I do.”

St. Joseph’s has been serving as a place of spiritual respite for members of the Surfside/Miami Beach community — both Catholic and non-Catholic — who have been affected in some way by the collapse, Catholic News Service reported. It also is accommodating fire rescue personnel and journalists from around the world who are parking or camped out on its premises, said the wire service.

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