Miami archbishop commends heroism of Catholic FBI agent killed in the line of duty
Miami, Fla., Feb 9, 2021 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami offered a moving funeral homily last week commending Laura Schwartzenberger, an FBI agent who was killed while pursuing a child pornography investigation.
The funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 6, four days after FBI Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger, a mother of two young boys and an active member of Mary, Help of Christians Parish in Parkland, was shot and killed alongside Agent Daniel Alfin.
The archbishop emphasized the devastation felt by the community following the death of Schwartzenberger, who not only committed herself to the safety of children through her career but who taught religious education for kids at the parish.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to Laura’s husband, Jason, to their two sons, Gavin and Damon; our condolences go out to the family of Daniel Alfin as well. We share their grief and the grief of the parents, siblings and blood relations of these public servants who were stricken in the line of duty,” he said.
“Your pain is real; and our entire community here South Florida shares it with you – and we wish that in sharing it we could take away some of your pain. And though we cannot do that, we want you to know that you do not carry it alone. The entire community stands with you and will continue to do so in the days ahead.”
The pair was serving a federal warrant for 55-year-old David Lee Huber, who was suspected of trading sexual images of underage children, Fox News reported.
When the FBI approached his door, Huber reportedly peered through the doorbell camera and then opened fire on the authorities with an assault weapon. The perpetrator also injured three agents, two of whom were hospitalized. Huber later committed suicide.
Wenski said that throughout Schwartzenberger’s career, she encountered the dark side of human nature and protected the young and vulnerable from the evilness of sexual predators. In speaking to Laura’s two sons, he said their mother was a true hero who was firmly committed to charity.
“Gavin and Damon, your Mom was a hero as is every agent, every law enforcement member that puts on a badge and reports for duty. They aren’t celebrities; but they are heroes. Celebrities show off; heroes show up,” he said.
“But being a hero does not mean that you don’t know fear; it means not letting fear overwhelm you to keep you from helping your neighbor. She and all those who die in the line of duty are heroes because in the face of evil they responded firmly and resolutely to protect and serve the common good.”
He said the death of Schwartzenberger emphasizes the fragility of life and poses hard questions. He said a similar encounter was likely faced by the distraught Martha of Bethany, who, in the gospel, reproached Christ for not having been there sooner to save her brother Lazarus from death.
However, he said, just as it was for Lazarus and his family, the resurrection is a light of hope amid darkness and grief.
“Our faith in Jesus Christ crucified yet risen from the dead gives us light even in the darkness of this day; and our hope in him, who conquered death, consoles us and strengthens us in our grief - but, nevertheless, we weep; like Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus, we weep.”
“We turn to the Mother of Jesus, Mary Help of Christians. The sinless Mother of God knew grief when she stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus died. As Laura prayed - in this church, in her home, with her religion class students, with her sons, we too pray invoking her who is our help: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
A memorial service for Schwartzenberger was also held at Miami Gardens Feb. 6. During the service, Director of the FBI Christopher Wray said, while he did not have the pleasure of personally knowing Laura, the stories of this agent tell a life of “determination, dedication, and courage.”
He said Schwartzenberger joined the FBI in 2005 and, after graduating from Quantico, took her first field office in Albuquerque. In 2007, he said, she became Albuquerque’s first female FBI SWAT team member. Three years later, she transferred to Miami and joined the Violent Crimes Against Children Squad.
He said Schwartzenberger zealously advocated for greater protections for children from online predators and offered presentations on on sexual extortion. He said that in one of her biggest cases, she helped lock up a criminal who tricked hundreds of adolescent boys into sharing their intimate images.
“Laura had such a profound impact on the parents of some of the victims that when they found out that Laura had been killed in the line of duty, they immediately sent their condolences to the Bureau. And they asked how they could help Laura’s two boys. That speaks volumes about what Laura meant to this community,” he said.
“I understand that Laura was a woman of faith - a devout Catholic who attended Mary Help of Christians church. It was an important part of her life and part of who she was in everything she did,” he further added.
“No matter how hard Laura’s days were, no matter how difficult protecting children from evil became, Laura kept that faith. Just as she kept her faith in the rule of law, in justice, and in doing what was right. A call to service isn’t designed for comfort and convenience. True service is a test. It’s an act of faith. And Laura had faith. She had faith in people. She had faith in the work she was called to do. She nurtured that faith. She shared it. And she lived it, every day.”