“To say that there’s a lot of heartache in that church right now is an understatement,” Terry Donilon, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, told the bevy of media, who watched from outside the church at the request of the family. “But we call it a celebration of life, and that’s what this will be.”
Other speakers included Ritzer’s best friend since childhood, Jennifer Berger, who did one of the readings, and her mentor, Laura Fogerty, who provided the universal prayer. The responsorial psalm, Psalm 42, had the congregation repeating, “My soul is thirsting for the living God; when shall I see him face to face?” Her aunts made the presentation of offerings for the full Catholic Mass.
As Gori offered his final prayer, the congregation stood for the song of farewell.
About 11:20 a.m., the front doors to St. Augustine opened again and the church bells began to ring. Gori and six other priests and religious leaders in white vestments quietly filed down the front center steps. They stopped midway, lining up on either side.
Hundreds of Danvers High students, many with their arms around each other’s shoulders and hands clasped together, began pouring out of a side door and stood at attention as they lined the sidewalk to the left of the church. Ritzer’s teaching colleagues reemerged and once again filled the church’s two side stairways.
Eight minutes later, Ritzer’s cousins accompanied her casket down the church steps to the awaiting hearse.
As the recessional hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” was sung, her distraught family — father Tom, mother Peggie, brother Daniel and sister Laura — made their way behind it.
The church bells continued ringing for almost 20 minutes, as Ritzer’s family and friends filed out and took their places to the right of the church. They rang as the last of the floral arrangements were loaded into the hearse and Gori walked down the church steps alone, taking a seat in the hearse.