Skip to main content
News Articles

Sermon, prayers in ‘a tragic time’

By May 30, 2005June 4th, 2021No Comments

Deaths of two teenagers weigh heavy on friends at two Orange County churches.
The Orange County Register | May 30, 2005

By Gwendolyn Driscoll and Valerie Takahama

ANAHEIM HILLS — On the feast day of Corpus Christi, the Catholic celebration of Jesus Christ’s body and blood, parishioners at San Antonio de Padua del Canon Church bowed their heads in remembrance of two Orange County souls.

“Both of them were gifted people and yet their life and their body were taken away from them,” Father Paul Gins said at the church’s 11:30 Mass, where the lives of two teenagers killed in a car accident Thursday were the subject of sermons and prayers.

“But,” he added, “the spirit lives on.”

The service was one of several around Orange County in which Jonathan Schulte, 16, an Orange youth who was confirmed at San Antonio’s, and Gillian Sabet, 17, of San Clemente were remembered. Both were killed Thursday night after the 2000 Isuzu Rodeo they were in flipped on the northbound San Joaquin Hills (73) Toll Road. Four other teenagers were injured, but survived.

At Sunday’s 10 and 11:30 a.m. Masses, the mother of one of the survivors, John Buehler, 17, could be seen crying and hugging parishioners. But Carolyn Buehler said she was too distraught to speak publicly about the accident.

“She doesn’t want to show joy that her son was spared,” said parish priest Seamus A. Gynn. “His best friend was killed, and that’s what’s killing her.”

The teens were driving to an end-of-school-year dinner dance held aboard a yacht at Newport Beach when the crash occurred. According to California Highway Patrol investigators, Ashley Melbourne, 16, of Aliso Viejo was driving at around 70 mph when another passenger, Ryan Massey, 15, from Laguna Niguel grabbed the steering wheel, apparently to steady it while Melbourne reached for a pack of gum.

The car spun and rolled twice.

Schulte and Sabet died at the scene. Melbourne, Buehler, and one other passenger, Madeline Moore, 15, of San Juan Capistrano, were treated and released from area hospitals Saturday. Massey was still in critical condition Sunday at Mission Hospital’s Regional Trauma Center in Mission Viejo.

Under gray skies, San Antonio’s parishioners added the teens to their list of prayers normally read on behalf of the poor, the infirm, and military men and women serving overseas.

“It is a difficult time, a tragic time, as young people are suddenly aware of death in their midst,” Gins said.

Outside the church, usher Chuck Boemer said his church community was “holding together.”

“We hope the families recover and other people learn from this,” he said.

Elsewhere in Orange County, the families and friends of the dead and injured gathered to grieve.

At Capistrano Valley Church in San Juan Capistrano, young worshippers sang and prayed for the still hospitalized Massey, an active member of the church youth group. Youth minister Justin Hoeppner said the young people were deeply shaken by the accident.

“They’re saying, ‘I don’t know if God really cares about us. Why would God let this happen? Why would God let such a bad thing happen to such a good person?’ ” he said.

The group worships in the gym on the campus of the Capistrano Valley Christian Schools. About 40 middle- and high-school students sat in folding chairs on a basketball court as a Christian rock band, Three Nails, performed hymns.Some teens closed their eyes and sang along with obvious emotion. Others bowed their heads in silent prayer.

Hoeppner, 24, preached a sermon that focused on the lessons of tragedy and suffering. He drew lessons from the biblical Book of Job.

“God allowed Job to be tested because he was righteous,” he said. “I hope we can interpret this tragedy and come out of it looking more like Christ.”

Maddison Wade, 17, of Laguna Niguel said the sermon left her feeling hopeful.

“People do get stronger when tragedies happen. We have to trust that,” she said. “He’s got miracles for Ryan to work.”