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Teens recall Castro's enthusiasm
Friends find comfort by sharing memories at special youth Mass
By Jennifer Cerven | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 10:02 AM

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This story originally published on January 11th, 1993

The monthly Mass for teens, usually is a lime for shared laughter and fellowship at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Palatine. But on Sunday, the ceremony became a service of mourning, as young members of the parish shared tearful memories of one of their group, 16-year-old Michael Castro, who was one of the seven murder victims at Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant. The Rev. Steven G. Dombrowski, associate pastor, tried to console the teenagers and others among the estimated 159 who turned out for the evening service, but he also struggled for an explanation for the tragedy.

"Why would something like this happen?" he said "Why would God do this? God doesn't do this.

"The best that we can do is to realize that Michael and the six others who were victims are now in God's peace. Their suffering is over - The pain is left behind for us," he said.

That pain was acutely evident as people took turns approaching the pulpit to share their personal thoughts on Castro and the others.

"He was a really super person," said Andrea Stewart, 16, a Palatine High School student and friend of Castro's for five years, as she fought back tears. "Everybody loved him. A lot of us here are very sad."

A cousin of Castro's shared remembrances from his family's perspective.

"Michael had a lot of dreams. He was going to do a lot of things," he said. "He was always willing to give."

Philippine Consul General Jaime Bautista also attended the service to express condolences on behalf of the Filippino-American community.

Both Castro and victim Rico Solis had Filipino roots.

"I have four children of my own, so I know what a great tragedy it is to lose a son," Bautista said.

St. Theresa Elementary School teacher Vicki Merkel, who had Castro as a student, said she shares the pain of his family because she lost her only child in a car accident six years ago. The anniversary of her daughter's funeral was Friday.

"There is no replacing a lost child," she said. "To think that seven families will be destroyed by what has happened - it's horrible."

Audrey Taylor, the church's youth minister, said Michael's enthusiasm was contagious, especially when he arrived early to help set up for teen dances. She urged those who knew him to remember that enthusiasm and to think of him, looking down on those he left behind.

"I think he would be saying, 'Come on, you guys, let's dance. Don't cry. I'm up here waiting for you in the sky.'"