Dec 19, 2012

Hundreds gather at St. Michael Church to pray for Newtown victims



Story and photos by David Martin
EAST LONGMEADOW – Nearly 450 community members came together at St. Michael Church, here, to sing, pray and show their

support for the citizens of Newtown, Conn., who suffered the tragedy of gun violence last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School there.

The prayer vigil was organized by Sisters of St. Joseph Mary McGeer and Betty Broughan. Sister Broughan said she and Sister McGeer were looking for songs to include in the vigil that would give a positive message and would bring hope to a community that is suffering along with and for the people of Newtown. She said they chose songs that would particularly speak to the children, that focused on hope and bringing light into the world. These songs included “Teach your Children” and “Called by your Presence,” which accompanied readings that were recited during the vigil.

“I think that the readings were very fitting. ‘Let the children come to me’ – the Gospel of Mark – was very powerful,” said Sister Broughan.

She said when creating a program as this, she becomes inspired to try to put the right pieces together and create the ambiance that allows the congregation to really reflect on what is being done, said and sung.

A liturgical dance, entitled “Let Me Be an Instrument of Your Peace,” was performed during the vigil by MacKenzie LaFond, a ninth-grader at East Longmeadow High School and parishioner at St. Michael’s.

There were many children and their parents present for the vigil. Among them was parent Bob Holmes, a parishioner at St. Michael Parish. Holmes said he wanted to attend this vigil with his children so they could experience the power of prayer in a large community.

“My kids and I come to church every week and the tragedies we have encountered in our own lives, we get through not only through our faith, but through this faith community, here at St. Michael’s. I would hope the people in Connecticut have a similar community that they can draw some courage and strength from,” Holmes said.

Angels with the names of each of the victims in last Friday’s school shooting were placed before candles on the altar by congregation members as each name was announced. Cynthia Korhonen, a eucharistic minister at St. Michael’s and also a parent, said she was pleased with the prayer vigil at her church because it was reflective, healing and very well done. Korhonen grew up in Beacon Falls, Conn., and said she feels deeply for the people in Newtown.

Sister Broughan said it is important to show the people of Newtown that there are others in a loving embracing, community sending the energy of love and prayer into their hearts.

“We say, ‘God bless them right now for what they have to go through,’” said Sister Broughan.