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Fr. Leahy Leads Mass of Hope and Healing in Wake of Marathon Tragedy

04/17/13
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Photo courtesy of Lee Pellegrini

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Apr. 17, 2013

The four friends, all Boston College seniors, had a plan for Marathon Monday.

One of them, Kara Mackintire, was among the entrants in the Boston Marathon. The other three would wait for her to make the journey from Hopkinton and then accompany her for the last five miles of the race.

So, at about the 21st mile mark of the marathon course, Mackintire was joined by Tommy Belton, Morgan Hiler and Caitlin Walsh, all the way to the finish line at Copley Square. They rejoiced at the moment, their last opportunity to enjoy the Boston Marathon together as BC students. The time was about 2:45 p.m.

Only minutes later, what had been a splendid day dissolved into a tempest of chaos, horror and fear.

“When the first bomb went off, it was a sound I’d never heard before,” recalled Walsh, who estimates that she and her friends were about 50 yards from the blast. “When the second one went off, I knew it was a bomb.”

“We just started running toward Boston Common,” said Hiler. “We waited there, and it was eerie. The city was silent. We finally met up with some friends and made our way back to campus.”

Twenty-four hours later, the quartet were together again, this time at a Mass of Hope and Healing celebrated yesterday by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, in St. Ignatius Church, an opportunity for the University community to gather and offer prayers for the victims and all others affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. [As of Wednesday morning, three people had been reported killed and more than 170 injured from the two explosions.]

The church, which the previous day had been a temporary sanctuary for stranded marathon runners, filled quickly to capacity with BC students — several, like Mackintire, wearing this year’s blue-and-yellow Boston Marathon windbreakers — faculty, administrators and staff as well as St. Ignatius parishioners.

Outside the church, attendees were invited to sign large banners as a show of support for two BC graduate students, Liza Cherney and Brittany Loring, who had been hospitalized with injuries resulting from the explosions. The banners, both emblazoned with the words “You are in the thoughts and prayers of the Boston College community,” were quickly filled with signatures and messages of sympathy and reassurance.

“Looking forward to handing you your diploma in May! You are a tough cookie!” read one.

Another was more concise, but no less encouraging: “For Boston. For you. Be well.”

Fr. Leahy urged those in attendance to draw on “a reservoir of care and good will, that will sustain us as a community.

“We come with certain hurts and a sense of confusion: Why do these things happen? How can we carry on?” he continued. “It is this very community of faith that engages us and provides us support. Tap into that reservoir of goodness around us; there is no need to be alone.”

Fr. Leahy said the selection from the Holy Gospel read at the Mass provided a source of comfort in a time of anxiety and worry.

“Christ proclaimed that ‘I am the bread of life,’ and those words have extra significance to us,” he explained. “We are seeking a level of consolation, food that will sustain us. The bread of life gives us energy, support and faith. Christ’s words sustain us today, and in the future.

“We are together, part of this reservoir of goodness, engagement and caring, part of the Boston community. I hope we think about this community that we draw from, and that we need to give to.

“We are called upon to represent faith, hope and healing for those who it need most.”

Afterwards, Mackintire and her three friends reflected on the events, and shifting emotions, of the past 24 hours.

“It was so scary for the first several hours, not being sure if someone you know might be injured, or worse,” said Belton. “We found out later on that everyone we knew was safe. But it was important to come here today, to find comfort together.”

“I was really impressed by how many people showed up for the Mass,” said Hiler. “It made me feel how lucky and blessed we are to be at BC.”

“We’ve replayed those moments in our heads, and how everything could have been so different if we had been a few minutes later,” said Mackintire. “Today, I felt thankful for the BC community, and that we could be together to thank God.