Archbishop Cordileone leads prayer service for family who died in murder-suicide in San Mateo.

Archbishop leads prayer for family who died in apparent murder-suicide

‘There is no way to explain but we know we need to pray.’         

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone


By Valerie Schmalz

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone stood outside a neatly painted single story home in a quiet San Mateo neighborhood this morning and led a short prayer service for the family of four who died in an apparent murder-suicide earlier this month.

Police officers, several priests and religious leaders and community members gathered with him to pray for Anand Henry, 37, his wife, Alice Benziger, 38, and their twin 4-year-old sons, Noah and Nathan. The family was discovered deceased Feb. 12 after a family member could not reach them and contacted police, authorities said.

“Loving God, we entrust our sister and brothers to your mercy. You loved them greatly in this life. Be with their family and friends in this time of sorrow,” Archbishop Cordileone prayed.

“We come together in prayer to ask God’s help and healing,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “Grace and peace to all of us in the name of our loving God. We stand on holy ground. God is with us, doing what God always does, calling forth life, especially now. Emanuel is the God who is with us always and everywhere. There is nowhere we can flee God’s presence.”

After the short prayer service, the archbishop sprinkled the front of the house with holy water and led the group in St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer which begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”.

San Mateo police say Henry killed his wife, and then turned the gun on himself. The two boys were found dead in a bedroom on a couch without visible signs of trauma. Both parents were software engineers who had moved here from India around a decade ago. The children were baptized at a local Catholic church. Shortly after their deaths, Most Holy Redeemer pastor Father Matthew Link led a funeral service for the family at Duggan’s Funeral Home that was arranged by a family member.

What drove a husband and father to kill his wife and twin 4-year-old sons before killing himself in their family home in San Mateo will never be known, Archbishop Cordileone said, but he said we must pray for all of the family and rely on the mercy of God.

Family photo on Anand Henry’s FB page

“There is no way to explain but we know we need to pray. We come together to pray today in the midst of this inexplicable tragedy,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “In this situation, as in all situations of tragedy and sadness, we must turn to God.”

In the Facebook post reporting the deaths of the family, San Mateo police there had been no reports of violence at the house, with the only call out a few years ago for a mountain lion spotted in the yard. The police listed mental health resources in its posting.

Julio Escobar, Archdiocese of San Francisco restorative justice coordinator, said the deaths occurred within a few days of the one-year anniversary of a mass murder in Half Moon Bay. He urged all to treat one another with love. The Restorative Justice Ministry and St. Mark Catholic Parish in Belmont will hold the annual Walk for Peace on March 2 at 3:30 p.m.

Archbishop Cordileone leads the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which encompasses San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties.