A Maine parish has become a hub of healing as its community grapples with a devastating mass shooting.
"It's been miraculous what the Holy Spirit has done," said Tyler Nadeau, director of evangelization and catechesis at Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, Maine. "I can say with 100% certainty that God has sent legions of angels into our community."
Nadeau spoke with OSV News hours after an Oct. 29 prayer vigil – organized by Lewiston officials and hosted by the parish – drew some 4,000 residents to the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, one of the five churches that comprise the parish.
The evening gathering commemorated the 18 victims killed in an Oct. 25 shooting rampage that spanned two locations in Lewiston. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting since 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022.
After a two-day manhunt that saw the town and surrounding communities locked down, 40-year-old suspect Robert Card was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Speaking to media after the discovery, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she was "breathing a sigh of relief … knowing that ... Card is no longer a threat to anyone.
"Now is a time to heal," she said.
That task began when "the community came back to its roots" at the basilica, Nadeau told OSV News.
"We were able to come out as one," he said. "So many people just walked (into the basilica) and said, 'We had forgotten how beautiful this is.'"
The bells of the basilica – which was "built by the community of mill workers through the Great Depression" – tolled for the dead, and "there were almost 2,000 people standing outside in the street on the front lawn watching a (livestream) of what was happening inside," said Nadeau.
The parish also held an additional vigil featuring Eucharistic adoration and another tolling of bells, with some 200 in attendance – including members of some of the victims' families, Nadeau said.
No parishioners from Prince of Peace were among those slain, he said, although one teen parishioner was injured and hospitalized for reconstructive surgery.
At the same time, "we all (lost someone)," said Nadeau. "This is one community, and people don't appreciate how connected Maine is."
Several of Nadeau's family members who are hard of hearing knew the victims who were part of the local deaf community.
One of the parish's priests – who wished to remain unnamed and who serves as a hospital chaplain – "sat with one of the deceased until the family could arrive," said Nadeau. "And then he sat with the family the rest of the night."
Parishioners also are remembering the suspect in their prayers, he said.
"I'm not going to say it's easy to pray for Robert Card," Nadeau admitted. "It's very, very hard to pray for him. (But) we can't hate him, because hate just breeds more pain. … And we don't know the whole story. Mental health struggles are real. … What was going through his mind? Did he get any clarity as to the evil that had been committed? … If he did wrestle with his own demons, we have to pray for that."
Nadeau said the parish will frame and present to first responders and city officials an Oct. 28 message of consolation from Pope Francis, which was issued by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and sent to Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, by the U.S. apostolic nuncio, Cardinal Christophe Pierre.
The parish has already raised well over $10,000 for the victims' medical and funeral expenses, Nadeau said.
The work of healing hearts will take time, he said.
"We're always going to be that town where that awful thing happened. … It needs to scar over, this wound," he said. "(But) it's going to be a continual message of hope that there is no room for hate, that evil does exist, but that wherever evil things happen, grace abounds and the Holy Spirit is there."
In a reflection penned moments after his interview with OSV News, Nadeau added, "If our churches could speak, they would tell the people of Lewiston, that they are one with them.
That their doors are open for them, and that all are welcome to come and rest. … They would tell Lewiston of how so very sad they are, for the losses they have endured.
"If our churches could speak, they would tell the people of Lewiston of their love for them."
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News.