A packed sanctuary was on hand for the traditional Roman Catholic funeral mass for Chester and Rosaria Andraka at St. Christopher Church on Littleton Road Monday morning. The ceremony did not allude to the violence of what the Morris County Prosecutor's office ruled as the murder of Rosaria Andrala and the suicide of Chester Andraka. Instead, the focus was on comforting openly weeping family members and impressing upon the congregants the importance of faith.
The family entered the worship space and walked up the church aisle behind two mahogany-colored caskets draped ceremonially in white linen, per Catholic tradition.
Liturgical readings including the 23rd Psalm ("The Lord is my shepherd...") emphasized comfort and tenacity. In his gospel reading and homily, the Rev. Joseph Buffardo, St. Christopher's pastor, exhorted the assembled, telling them that "life is changed, not over" and "death is the door to Jesus' place," where peace, joy, care, compassion, life, love and glory are found.
"This is a time for faith," the priest stated, referring to John 14, and quoting Jesus. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms... I am going there to prepare a place for you."
"We feel troubled because of the loss and the emptiness we feel," Buffardo said in the homily, "troubled over what Chester and Rosaria are experiencing right now, and the questions we have."
The Andrakas' children, both students at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where their parents worked, appeared bereft but strong as each took part in the funeral rite.
Daughter Anna Andraka read a verse of scripture that spoke of healing and moving forward "moment to moment and day to day."
"Let us comfort each other," she said, choking up with tears briefly. "And by God, give us strength."
Son Chris Andraka offered a eulogy in which he recalled the strength of his parents.
"My dad was very loud," the college freshman said. "He projected his voice. He was very strong. He worked very hard... and he taught me a lot. And if someone needed help, he was there."
Andraka described his father as the sort of man who loved to see people happy and would work very hard to bring them joy and keep them safe.
"He was kind of like a big kid, a 40-year-old kid. He even played Xbox, which is not all that common for someone of his age," Chris Andraka said with a small chuckle. "He was just an amazing person. He taught me everything I know."
The young man lost his composure for a moment and his sister Anna joined him at the lectern to provide moral support as he continued, recalling his mother through his tears.
"She was strong, also, physically and mentally," he said. "She taught me how to care, how to be strong and she never wanted me to cry. She sacrificed her whole life for us."
Chris Andraka painted a picture of his mother, who the family called "Enza," as a fierce protector of her children.
"I'd always get mad at her for getting mad at people for me," he said with a quick rueful smile. "If someone did something mean to me, like told me to shut up, my mom would just take it to the next level and really lash out at them."
He concluded by thanking both of his parents, for him and his sister.
"If they hadn't taught us for life, I wouldn' be able to stand up here today," he said.
After the mass, a motorcade of officers including members of Parsippany Police and Essex County Sheriff's Office led two hearses and a convoy of vehicles to Gate of Heaven Mausoleum Chapel in East Hanover, where the couple were laid to rest.
Officials say Parsippany Police officers were present for traffic control purposes and that Rosaria Andraka's brother works for the Essex County Sheriff's Office; its representatives were on hand to aid and comfort their colleague's family.