Gabriel & Katie Jay: A Celebration of Life
Gabriel and Katie Jay Stauring were activists for peace. They worked with refugees of mass atrocities such as the Genocide in Darfur. Together they established iAct to provide humanitarian action to aid, empower and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities. Last Summer (August 2021) they went to Armenia to work with refugees of the War in Artsakh. They were interviewed on Western Diocesan Television program “Center of Attention” https://youtu.be/BKs47NLYopU
On November 23, 2021 they tragically lost their lives in a traffic accident in Los Angeles. A Celebration of Life was held on December 11 with family and friends in attendance. Below are his opening remarks at the Celebration of Life gathering:
Good afternoon and welcome to this Celebration of Life: Gabriel and Katie Jay Scott Stauring, two lives and two souls that brought love to people, passion to life, and peace to a hurting world. There’s was a life that stood out in the world as a bright beacon of hope. It is in that spirit – in their spirit – that I light this candle, because they would be the first to tell you that “it is so much better to light this candle than to curse the darkness.”
Please join me in prayer:
Lord God, Author of Love and Passion, accept this offering today made by the family and friends of Gabriel and Katie Jay, as an offering of thanksgiving for two lives that touched us and the lives of so many. We stand here today to remember, to share, to cry, to laugh, and to celebrate two lives that were cut short but, the fullness and quality of their lives along with their capacity to heal a hurting world, have become inspiration for and to us all. May we find solace in their stories, in the way LOVE became the predominant motivator of their compassion for the hurting people of the World. Amen.
I am a priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church, yet the greater qualifier for officiating this service is that I was and am a friend of both Gabriel and Katie Jay. I am honored to be officiating this service with Trudy Goodman. Together we will share our stories, and the stories of those who were close to Gabriel and Katie Jay. Over the last few weeks so many of you have shared on social media, what these two meant to you. Today, is a continuation of that sharing, a sharing that will go on for years to come by the thousands who have been completely changed by their lives.
I’d like to tell you that meeting Gabriel was by chance, but by now I realize it wasn’t. There was something greater at work. This past summer, before Gabriel & Katie-Jay left for Armenia and we discussed exactly that. We sat around a table reminiscing about the road to our meeting. You see, I am the grandchild of Genocide survivors, the first Genocide of the 20th century. In 2003, we began the In His Shoes movement, with the simple premise that those who have suffered evil have a unique responsibility to take action against injustice to others. Our actions are based on Christ’s principles of love, compassion and repaying evil with good.
Well, you can understand what a lonely place that was, unless you were lucky or blessed enough to meet Gabriel Stauring. Right around that same time he had had his ‘enough’ moment and knew that he could not stand by as the FIRST Genocide of the 21st century, that is, in Darfur, was unfolding.
He was putting the foundation to iAct, through Stop Genocide Now and I was doing the same with In His Shoes. Through the years we bounced ideas off of each other, realizing there had to be better ways of combatting evil. In very simple terms: while the world was telling us you fight fire with fire, we dared to believe that maybe it is time we use some water to put out the flames.
We were at the first Camp Darfur, and he was at every one of our In His Shoes activities. In 2008 we named him the Man of the Year, because he embodied everything that was in the “script.” He was living out the goodness. With Katie Jay, there was a sense of fulfillment and completeness. They became a team. I know that feeling as I’ve enjoyed that fulfillment with Susan. We would attend each other’s events, up until the last one we attended just a few months ago, right here in this auditorium, after their successful work in Armenia working with the refugees of the War.
We both shared an excitement for technology – which included some time-travel too! I remember the primitive tents at Camp Darfur, with modern tech driving them in the background. We organized the first transcontinental virtual meeting of refugees – about 8 years – at our church. Refugees of the Darfur Genocide meeting with the children of the refugees of the Armenian Genocide. Picture the sacredness of the church, in front of our altar area, monitors, a panel of computers and couplers held together by wires and Katie-Jay acting as a human-antenna. We were in Glendale while Gabriel in Chad, was hooking up cameras with genocide survivors from Darfur. AND the MIRACLE HAPPENED… The refugees there heard for the first time, the voices of their grandchildren, the children sitting in Glendale who told them “It’s going to get better, look at us!” And our children in Glendale, for the first time, were talking with their grandparents, who were thrown out of their homes because of their skin color, their religion and ethnic makeup.
This was a magical bridge that brought about human understanding, across generations and across continents. But to achieve this kind of magic, or miracle, requires sacrifice, one which both Gabriel and Katie Jay made over and over again. On this particular day, Gabriel was away from his family for one of the longer sprints of his 31 visits to the refugee camps. Both Katie-Jay’s mom and Gabriel’s mom had come to the church that day, because it was their chance to see and talk with Gabriel. Katie-Jay held their daughter Leila up to the camera. You could hear the longing in Gabriel’s voice as he looked on at his child and Leila seeing daddy on the big screen. There was a very tender moment afterwards where they all went to the candle area of our church to light a candle, a symbol of light in the darkness.
I have placed a cross here. In the Armenian Orthodox Church, the cross is a symbol of resurrection and victory, yes, but it is also a symbol of victory through LOVE. In the West we have the symbol of the heart, yet in our Eastern Orthodox tradition the symbol of Love is the Cross because it means sacrifice. What Gabriel & KTJ did was sacrifice – their comfort, the family, their talents, their life for something greater, namely peace.
I wish to share with you the words of Jesus Christ, which are often understood as a prediction for some future time. As I read this passage now, I ask that we all think of these two lives that we celebrate today. Think of the words of this passage as being fulfilled in the lives of Gabriel and Katie-Jay. It is from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These words are not forecast or prediction, rather think of them as axioms. In Gabriel and Katie Jay we see fulfillment. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Blessed are Gabriel and Katie Jay for they are children of God. They witnessed the power of light over darkness, the power of good over evil, the power love over hate.
When I was growing up, I thought the Armenian Genocide was so horrific that it was unique. Singular. Just as everyone else who comes of age, I started looking around and saw the horrors of the Holocaust, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Rwanda. In this century, the list only began with Darfur, which tragically was not the end. These atrocities continue in the world. There are only the indicators that flash before our lives all the time that point to these horrors. Yesterday, a truck carrying 53 Central American migrants turned over, killing them. Truly a horror, but we need to look beyond and see the real atrocities that are being committed that drive people out of their home and countries.
Blessed are you Gabriel and Katie Jay for you are children of God. You cannot die. And the challenge is now ours.
We can give them all the tributes, memorials and celebrations that we can muster, but the greatest tribute will be to carry on the mission and vision for which they lived. And now, this holiday season, we have the reminder, that the same mission and vision was shared at the Birth of the Christ Child: Peace on Earth and good will toward one-another. That is a mission for us all. IAct is what they set up. It’s mission is to provide humanitarian action to aid, empower and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities. Our first step to remembering and celebrating Gabriel and Katie Jay’s life and legacy is to adopt Peace as our goal: Peace on Earth and goodwill toward one another.
I thank the Stauring family for the honor to share these thoughts with you. May God rest their soul and grant comfort to all of you.
-Fr. Vazken Movsesian
The celebration of life is archived at
Part 1 https://www.facebook.com/iactivism/videos/1604312983236469
Part 2 https://www.facebook.com/iactivism/videos/275349494622372
|Just before leaving for Armenia
|A selfie at Gabriel’s request. So happy that he asked!