‘It makes no sense:’ Hundreds mourn Shelton teen James McGrath

Photo of Ethan Fry

TRUMBULL — Dozens of James McGrath’s teammates on the Fairfield Prep football and lacrosse teams linked arms and lined the entrance to Saint Theresa Catholic Church on Friday to greet a hearse carrying the 17-year-old’s body to a Mass of Christian burial.

The teens stood by and watched silently as Bishop Frank Caggiano greeted McGrath’s family and the teen’s casket, topped with red and white roses, was carried into the packed church, where hundreds of mourners were gathered.

At the end of the ceremony, the bishop extended condolences to McGrath’s family and offered prayers, solidarity, “and whatever support to make the burden you are carrying a bit easier.

“There are very few words that I can even imagine saying that could describe the pain, the sorrow, the grief that you have in your heart right now,” Caggiano said. “There are very few words I can offer to answer the questions that are swirling in all of our heads.”

Rev. Brian Konzman, a priest at Fairfield Prep, gave a homily during which he recalled crying with McGrath’s mother Maggie while making funeral arrangements.

“My whole body hurts,” Konzman quoted her as saying.

“It was one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve ever heard,” he said. “Our whole body hurts. The whole body of Fairfield Prep hurts. The whole body of Shelton hurts. We lost a brother, a native son, and each of us feels pain at that thought.”

The priest noted the widespread grief over the Shelton teen’s stabbing death Saturday, in which a suspect was arrested Wednesday.

“What does faith have to say in the face of that?” the priest said. “Only that it’s a mystery, and it’s the mystery that’s at the very core of our faith. It starts with the fact that we are not alone.

“Every story I’ve heard over the past week has been about how he just radiated joy,” Konzman said of McGrath. “How can Christ not have prepared a place for a guy like that? The hard part is the question about us, who remain behind.

“That’s confusing,” Konzman said. “It makes no sense.”

Konzman urged those in attendance to forgive.

“Anger is one thing,” he said. “It’s fair to be angry about what’s happened. In this case, it might even be righteous. But anger is also dangerous. It so easily devolves into hate.”

At the end of the Mass, Caggiano and several other priests stood while McGrath’s family escorted his casket out of the building.

Raul Eliah Valle, a 16-year-old from Milford, has been charged with murder in McGrath’s death, which occurred during a fight at a house party on Laurel Glen Road late Saturday. Valle is being held in lieu of $2 million bond.

In his obituary, McGrath’s family described him as “always a positive, loving and caring person” who excelled athletically and “understood the meaning of being part of a team.”

“It was never just about Jimmy — it was always about the team,” the obituary said.

At a lacrosse game Wednesday between Fairfield Prep and Shelton High School, McGrath’s father Kevin honored his son’s memory.

“Jimmy doesn’t want us to cry for him,” Kevin McGrath said. “Jimmy’s up there with his friends, his cousins who have passed. They’re up there looking down upon us today.”