Oct. 29—LEWISTON — Close to 200 faithful attended an hour of remembrance Sunday afternoon at Holy Family Church, including the parents and sisters of shooting victim Thomas Conrad.
Conrad was a manager at Just-in-Time Recreation, hired earlier this year, and was gunned down when he charged at the shooter just inside the entrance to stop him from going farther into the bowling alley. Conrad was a U.S. Army veteran, having served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is survived by a daughter, Caroline.
People are calling him a hero.
During the prayer service, as the victims' names were read off individually, Conrad's father sharply saluted his son, clearly fighting back tears.
Before the service began at 2 p.m. and again after it ended, multiple parishioners stopped to offer sympathies to the family members, hugging them and offering words of comfort.
The service, the first large organized community gathering to pay tribute to the 18 people who were killed Wednesday night at the bowling alley and nearby Schemengees Bar & Grille, was solemn. It opened with a hymn and prayer, but very quickly moved to an extended period of silence for prayer and reflection.
During that silence, people could be seen praying over rosaries, heads bowed. Others with hands folded in prayer. Others simply staring straight ahead.
The Rev. Raja Thanyiel offered a reading from the Book of Wisdom, noting, "The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them."
That was followed by a reading from the Gospel according to Matthew by the Rev. Patrick Finn, reflecting on Jesus' teaching to crowds on a mountain that "blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Thanyiel then offered a homily consoling the families and friends of the victims, recognizing that there are confused emotions and mixed feelings about faith after such an unspeakable tragedy. But, he said people must rely on their faith to see their way through, leaning on the Lord "that he might comfort us. That he might give us peace."
Thanyiel noted that "since love never ends, but survives even death, then the living may still share in a communion of love of the dead" through their prayers and their memories.
"What are we doing when we pray for the faithful departed?" he said. "We are tightening the very bounds, the glue" that holds people to their loved ones through their faith.
"It's helpful to think of our prayers of the dead in terms of love," Thanyiel said, "but this doesn't answer all our questions. We pray for those we have just lost, those for whom our hearts are still in tender pain.
"We pray for those we have never known, the lonely and those who have no one to pray for them. We remember them all. We love them all. This is all we know to do."
That message was followed by another quiet time of prayer and reflection, after which the parish offered up traditional prayers of the faithful, praying "for the salvation of our 18 brothers and sisters who have tragically lost their lives," and for the "surviving victims of the shootings who are now in the midst of hurt, pain and emotional suffering," and the families and friends of the victims, offering them "consolation and peace in the midst of their pain, heartache and grief."
At this point, a member of the parish read aloud the names of the 18 who were killed, each name followed by the sharp clang of a bell and then a moment of silence. A fraction of time after the bell rang inside, the church's exterior bells pealed for each one of the victims.
Then, another period of silence before the congregation recited the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a prayer typically recited over rosary beads, followed by the final benediction.
A number of journalists were at the service at 607 Sabattus St., setting up cameras through the church hall, and while parishioners seemed tolerant of the press presence in their space, very few were willing to talk.
One parishioner, who preferred not to give his name, said he and others were there "praying for the victims, praying for the community" because it is really the only thing people can do at this point.
Another parishioner who used to attend services at Holy Family, but began worshipping in Lisbon after moving to Topsham, said of the victims, "These were people we don't really know, but we can feel for them. And pray for them."
Thanyiel invited people to stay in the church hall in silent contemplation until the regularly scheduled Mass was set to begin at 5 p.m.
Three shooting survivors remain in critical condition at Lewiston hospital
Darkness and hope during shooting spree at Schemengees Bar & Grille