This is an image that will remain with me forever. It shows Jennifer Garza, attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, as she battled cancer. A veritable who's who of the Sacramento Catholic Church showed up to pray for her health, a tribute to her work and to her personally.
A longtime religion writer for The Bee and a devout Catholic, Jennifer had to balance her personal faith and relationships with the demands of a newspaper job that typically requires a certain emotional distance to ensure objectivity. She handled that challenge by being true to herself.
Faith is one of the few areas we don't intrude upon in newsrooms. Is it an advantage or disadvantage to believe in God if you cover religion? I don't know the answer to that, mostly because the answer might change with different reporters. I gained an inkling of what it meant for Jennifer at this August Mass.
Jennifer never shied away from tough stories about the Catholic Church or any other faith. She started covering religion about the time the Catholic Church was engulfed in scandal, as old and new incidents of priests molesting children became public. She wrote many stories about allegations, lawsuits and settlements. Such coverage rarely creates friendships among those who are at the center of it.
Yet there were Bishop Jaime Soto and two now-retired bishops Francis Quinn and William K. Weigand at her Mass, along with the Rev. James Murphy, vicar general for the Catholic Diocese and a longtime source of Jennifer's. Jennifer had done the tough stories and yet connected in a very personal way.
Her coverage included a four-part series of stories called "The Gift," which chronicled firefighter Dan Haverty's decision to donate part of his liver to Weigand. That kind of coverage and frequent conversations cemented friendships.
The photograph here is from that August Mass, when Quinn blessed Jennifer. Earlier this month Murphy and Weigand again participated in a Mass for Jennifer, but this time it was her funeral. Murphy, in his eulogy, said he admired Jennifer because "she never apologized for being a Catholic, a very active and committed Catholic."
He said when he visited Jennifer in The Bee newsroom he noticed she had a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe stuck to the side of her computer. He asked how she could have that picture in such a secular place. She replied, "I am who I am."
OP IMAGES | 2012