Those slain in Oakland over the past year will be remembered by family members, friends and community leaders at the Ceremony of the Crosses on New Year’s Eve at St. Columba Catholic Church.

The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31 at the church at 6401 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland. Mayor-elect Sheng Thao is expected to speak.

Throughout each year, crosses are placed in the church garden to recall those killed. At the New Year’s Eve ceremony, the victims’ names are read aloud, and the crosses removed.

The crosses are placed at the foot of the altar inside the church. Family members who lost a loved one may keep the cross to remember their loss.

Oakland has suffered 116 killings so far this year, police said. In all of last year, 123 people were slain, according to police data.

Crosses in the front garden of St. Columba Catholic Church display the names and ages of each of Oakland’s homicide victims from the year gone by. The crosses are retired during a New Year’s Eve vigil service after prayer and comments. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

The cross tradition started a little more than 13 years ago, said St. Columba parishioner Rich Laufenberg, who now makes the crosses.

The choir director at St. Columba suggested the cross placement to then-pastor Father Jayson Landeza, now the chaplain at the Oakland Police Department.

Following the placement of the first set of crosses, Landeza wanted to acknowledge them and pray for the dead — and the ceremony was born, Laufenberg said.

At the ceremony, family members of the dead will say what it’s like to lose a loved one. Also, community leaders like the mayor will hopefully say what they are doing to curb the violence in Oakland, Laufenberg said.

“It’s very appropriate to talk about the number of crosses,” he said.

People often ask how many are now in the ground, Laufenberg said.

But, he said, “One is too many.”

The point is to reduce the lives lost to violence in Oakland, Laufenberg added.

“One less today,” he said. “That’s sure worth the effort.” Guillermo Cespedes, Oakland’s chief of the Department of Violence Prevention, will also be speaking at this year’s ceremony.