Accompanied by long lines of ushers dressed in white shirts and black pants, the white coffin carrying the body of Marianna Franco entered Santa Rosa Catholic Church in San Fernando; The family’s parish where she and her family was headed on Aug. 24 when they were attacked with opened gunfire on their car, killing the 23-year-old.
Hundreds of people gathered for the Sept. 26 funeral and burial of Franco. In separate incidents that early Sunday morning two other victims were also shot and killed including a man gathering recyclables at a Sylmar Park and another woman, Gloria Tovar, who was headed to Guardian Angel church in Pacoima.
Alexander Hernandez, 34, a Sylmar resident, has been arrested in connection with the murders, but hasn’t been charged yet.
“Marianna came to this church to pray, to be in community and she returns today so we can say goodbye to her as a community,” said Father Stan Zowada, at the beginning of the service.
Two screens at the front of the church projected a slide show with photos of Marianna and her family since she was a baby. They showed a girl who was clearly of special needs, but one who was loved by her family and many others.
There were calls for prayer against the rampant violence that hurt this family. The Francos, long-time members of the church, who were headed there that day to serve as Eucharist Ministers.
Father Released From Hospital
The Francos were gunned down as they drove through the 1400 block of Celis Street in San Fernando just before 6 a.m. on Aug. 24. Marianna, who sat on the rear seat, in the driver’s side, died instantly from the hail of bullets that hit the car.
Her father, José, was also badly wounded in the neck and leg. Her mother Beatriz was also injured but was already out of the hospital.
Just this week, a family member posted a photo of Jose on social media announcing he was leaving the hospital. His discharge from the hospital came after the funeral.
“God is great and here is his miracle. A bullet in the neck, coma, one month hospitalized and finally tomorrow he leaves the hospital. Always smiling, always having fun. My uncle is super well, thank God. You’re my miracle. I love you uncle,” wrote Milynda Fonseca Franco.
Priest Seeks Prayers Against Violence
“Our families are broken because of violence, our communities are destroyed by violence, our faith is challenged by violence,” said another priest who took part in the mass, adding that the killing of Mariana has “affected not only Santa Rosa, but the entire archdiocese.”
He said that many parishioners came to him after the shooting to ask what to do.
“Pray,” was his response to them. He said, noting that “God uses everything to talk to us personally,” even tragedies such as this.
The priest also said Marianna’s death should make people remember that “we’re here for only a moment and that something else awaits us.”
He described Marianna as a happy girl who could also be tremendously stubborn and someone who could not hide her feelings.
“When she brought the offerings, she was always smiling,” he recalled. “Marianna, if she was angry, she could not hide it.”
At the end of the service, members of the Franco family gathered around in a circle and each put a hand on the coffin draped in a white cloth — to signify the dignity of Marianna, Zowada said. Following the mass she was buried at San Fernando Mission Cemetery.