Father Tim Hedrick, parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, was in Washington, D.C., continuing his canon law studies when a news alert came across his phone June 14 that Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the House Majority whip, had been shot.
“I immediately called and texted Jennifer (Scalise’s wife) to let her know that I was here (in D.C.) and would go and be with Steve,” Father Hedrick said.
Scalise, his wife Jennifer and two children Harrison and Madison are Catholic and are parishioners of St. Catherine.
Father Hedrick said Jennifer Scalise, who was back home with the children in Louisiana, called for a police detail to pick up the priest from The Catholic University of America to bring him to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Scalise was being treated.
“He was already in surgery, and they brought me down to surgery and I actually got to watch the surgery,” Father Hedrick said, who learned that several members of the surgery team were Catholic.
“They felt very comforted to know I was there, and they asked me to pray for them,” Father Hedrick said. He was at the hospital for 12 hours that first day and was able to give the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to Scalise.
“Just being there as a familiar face” has been comforting to Jennifer Scalise, Father Hedrick said. “(I am) one who can pray with her and pray for Steve. … I prayed with him first.”
Father Hedrick said he has also taken on the role of Jennifer’s communicator of Scalise’s condition with St. Catherine parishioners.
“Whatever updates she asks me to give, I do,” Father Hedrick said. “She wants to thank everyone for their outpouring of support. She’s strong. She’s done great.”
Scalise, who represents Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, had participated for several years in the congressional baseball fundraiser since being elected to office in 2008.
While attending an early-morning Republican team practice in Alexandria, Virginia, fielding ground balls near second base, he was shot in the hip by a gunman. MedStar Washington Hospital Center said the bullet fractured bones, injured internal organs and caused severe bleeding.
Four others, including Capitol police officers who were on Scalise’s protective detail, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist, also were injured. The shooter, now identified as James Hodgkinson, died at the scene.
Knows them from St. Catherine
The Scalises attend the Metairie parish where Father Hedrick has been parochial vicar since July 2014.
“I know him in my role as a priest and fellow (Archbishop) Rummel (High) graduate. And they (the family) come to church,” he said.
Father Hedrick said he’s been in Washington the past three summers studying canon law and has visited Scalise in his congressional office. Scalise gave him a tour and secured tickets for his wife Jennifer, Father Hedrick and Archbishop Gregory Aymond when Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress in 2015.
Since the shooting, Father Hedrick said has visited the Scalises every day. He was present when President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited Scalise in the hospital and learned the president had called Jennifer immediately after the shooting.
“The interesting thing about the Trump visit – it was his birthday,” Father Hedrick. “He left his birthday party with Melania to meet with Jennifer. When President Trump came in, he was so calm and caring and concerned about Jennifer and Steve. He promised to help them and support them.”
Locals band together
Residents of Scalise’s hometown of Metairie have shown their love and concern. On the evening of the shooting, St. Catherine of Siena held a short prayer service for the Scalise family and all those injured.
Several groups also were rallying to schedule blood drives on Scalise’s behalf. Archbishop Rummel High School, where Scalise graduated in 1983, will have a blood drive June 23 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in the Raider Room on campus, 1901 Severn Ave., Metairie.
Father Hedrick said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond called Jennifer the day of the shooting and offered his prayerful support.
“That’s the kind of support they are getting,” Father Hedrick said. “It’s a great comfort for her to know that people are praying for her back home. The president, archbishop and all these people, in the midst of the tragedy, are supporting her and praying for her.”
Father Hedrick considers it providential that he was in Washington when Scalise was shot and in such close proximity to the hospital where he landed.
“Of all the hospitals in Washington, he was sent to the hospital three blocks from Catholic University. I can see it from my bedroom window,” he said. “It is comforting for the (Scalise) family but also for St. Catherine family that someone from their community is taking care of one of their own.”
He said he also has gotten to know the Capitol police detail that was injured with Scalise on the baseball field due to them accompanying Scalise to Mass when he is in Metairie. Father Hedrick is glad he can be there for them as well and said they are doing OK after the shooting.
Father Hedrick said Jennifer Scalise asked everyone to keep praying for her husband, the other who were injured, the medical staff and her family.
Scalise’s critical condition after a third surgery June 15 was upgraded on June 16 by MedStar Dr. Jack Stava who was “encouraged by an improvement in his condition” over the past 36 hours. Scalise will remain in the hospital for some time and faces rehabilitation. The MedStar staff said other surgeries are necessary to manage abdominal and bone injuries.
“He’s got great care,” Father Hedrick said. “The doctors are taking care of him. It’s just going to take time.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.