Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, along with Msgr. Seamus McGowan, presided over Sanders’ graveside service.
The cheerful bed of marigolds 50 year-old Christopher Sanders planted at the Mother Teresa Shelter on Sam Rankin Street before his untimely death are part of the legacy he has left there. Marigolds are also planted on his grave at the cemetery in Flour Bluff where he was buried just days after he died in a situation police are still investigating.
“He was very unselfish, very giving and was always ready to help. He was my friend,” said Gerry Burns, who performs maintenance duties at the shelter.
Sanders, originally from Brownsville, was described as a quiet man by those who knew him best at the shelter. He kept to himself and visited mainly with shelter staff when he came in each day. He liked to lend a helping hand when he could, Burns said.
“Chris loved computers and Facebook. He was very intelligent,” Burns said.
Sanders’ body was found in front of the Sacred Heart Church, just blocks from the shelter, early in the morning of Jan. 7. The death was quickly ruled a homicide by Corpus Christi police and medical examiners because of blunt-force trauma to the head. As of this writing, no arrest had been made in the case, Lt. Chris Hooper of the Corpus Christi Police Department said.
“The case is being aggressively investigated,” he told the South Texas Catholic.
The day Sanders’ body was discovered, Sister Rose Paul Madassery, operations supervisor at the Mother Teresa shelter, was called to identify him. Police were already at the scene, she said.
Sister Rose searched for family members to notify them of the death and found an uncle and a brother-in-law but no one came forward to claim the body.
Employees with the Mother Teresa Shelter and Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi wanted to do something for Sanders, Sister Rose said. He had been a regular client of the shelter for at least 10 years, shelter records show.
“It had been over 20 years since he had any contact with his family,” she said of Sanders.
“He had a name and he was a person, like Bishop (Michael) Mulvey said,” Sister Rose said.
“The day the body was found, Bishop Mulvey did a beautiful prayer service here on the patio. We wanted to recognize Chris as a person and to say that our clients aren’t just homeless, they have a name,” she said.
The funeral services for Sanders were just one of many for the homeless that Sister Rose has arranged in her 13 years of working at the shelter.
“If I know them and they are a regular client, then I will make the arrangements for them,” she said.
Sanders was buried with the help of Guardian Funeral Home and $650 in funds from Nueces County, said Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Bishop Carmody, along with Msg. Seamus McGowan, presided over Sanders’ graveside service. About 17 people from the shelter and from Catholic Charities attended the service, Sister Rose said.
“I just wanted to recognize him. He had been very helpful and close to us,” she said.
Pope Francis called for 2016 to be an Extraordinary Year of Mercy because of all of the violence and suffering in the world. The corporal works of mercy call for providing shelter for the homeless and to bury the dead.
The biggest part of showing mercy is to love someone who cannot return the deed, as was the case when the burial service was arranged for Sanders, Bishop Carmody said.
“Every society is judged by its love for the dead,” he said. “The dead can’t reward us in any way…mercy is when you love somebody who can’t show that love to you.”
While Sanders stayed at the shelter, he and the others there became family because they had no one else.
“When he died, they experienced a loss. He had no home on this earth,” Bishop Carmody said.
Sanders suffered and lived a very uncomfortable life while living on the streets, Carmody said. He was not sure when he would eat again or where he would find food.
“Now, he’s at rest. He lived in darkness, but he will live eternity in light,” Bishop Carmody said.