EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 19, 2013

Interfaith service offers message of healing, hope

By Yadira Betances
ybetanceseagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — While crowds lined the sidewalks outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston to catch a glimpse of President Barack Obama yesterday, several members of St. Augustine Parish gathered to quietly reflect on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“There is strength in numbers,” said parishioner Nancy Cronin, as she watched on TV the start of an interfaith service in the Boston cathedral attended by the president and his wife and 2,000 other people to remember the victims of the bombings and to rally a shaken city.

The Rev. Mr. Lou Piazza, deacon at St. Augustine, who was in Boston on Monday while his son’s girlfriend ran in the marathon, said the interfaith service was “marvelous and wonderful.”

“While there are tragedies in every day life, this one is a public one. This is a shared pain and it’s moments like these where we share our faith,” said Piazza, who knew Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford — one of the three race spectators killed in the blasts.

“She was a shining light. She was one of those people who literally lit the room when she walked in,” Piazza said of Campbell.

Some runners from Monday’s marathon were among those who attended the Boston service, and many donned their race jackets for it. Attendees also included a number of Boston nurses who have cared for the wounded since the bombings.

In his remarks, Obama promised that Boston would “run again.” His message of resolve was echoed by Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick at a packed interfaith service.

“Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another,” said Menino, who struggled out of a wheelchair to deliver his speech. “Even with the smell of smoke in the air and blood in the streets and tears in our eyes, we triumphed over that hateful act.”

Obama, in the midst of an emotional and trying stretch for the country and his presidency, vowed to track down those responsible and lauded Boston’s “undaunted” spirit.

“Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act,” he told the gathering.

Speaking from the pulpit in the soaring cathedral, the president didn’t explicitly declare explosions an “act of terror” as he did earlier in the week during remarks at the White House. But he showed little restraint in describing those responsible for the attack, calling them “small, stunted individuals.”

“Yes, we will find you, and yes, you will face justice,” he said, as the crowd applauded.

The president spoke of Boston in personal terms, reminding the audience of the years he spent in the city as a student at Harvard Law School. Boston was also the host for the 2004 Democratic National Convention that featured Obama as the keynote speaker, a role that would thrust the little-known Illinois state senator into the national spotlight.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat at the front of the church next to Gov. Patrick. A mournful solo by cellist Yo-Yo Ma preceded the governor’s own remarks.

“We will grieve our losses and heal,” Patrick said. “We will rise, and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance, vigilance without fear.”

The service included reflections by representatives of Protestant denominations, the Jewish, Muslim and Greek Orthodox faiths, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Roman Catholic church in Boston.

In Lawrence yesterday, The Rev. Joel Almono, pastor of Grace Episcopal Church, watched part of the service.

“What impressed me the most is how in a moment of pain, theology is set aside to help humans as one because there is only one God,” Almono said.

“I was impacted to see a Muslim, an Orthodox bishop, followed to the podium by female evangelical Christians. It was almost like a utopia to see ministers of different denominations at a Catholic church, but it showed me that the unity of the people of God is possible,” Almono said.

The Rev. Bill Waters of the campus ministry at Merrimack College in North Andover watched the service on his computer.

Waters, an Augustinian priest said he was “very impressed” by the remarks made by Nasser S. Wedaddy, chairman of the New England Interfaith Council and the Civil Rights Outreach director of the American Islamic Congress.

“He was very inspirational and showed what it means to be an American,” Waters said. “By watching the service, you had a sense of unity of all different faiths. We’re all Americans, not just Jews, Christians and Muslims. We’re all united as one against violence and against such terror.”

The Obamas met privately with the family of Krystle Campbell, the Medford woman killed in the attack. The Obamas also visited with many of the injured in their hospital rooms at Massachusetts General Hospital and thanked the marathon volunteers who rushed toward danger to help the wounded.

Separately, the first lady met with patients, their families and hospital staff at Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.