The church bell tolled each time the name of one of the 26 victims of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. was read during a prayer service Monday night at Immaculate Conception Church in Everett.
After each name was read, about 250 in attendance responded, "We will remember you." Color pictures of the 20-first graders and six educators shot to death on Dec. 14 were printed on the program, along with a question from the Gospel of Luke: "What are we to do?"
"We all want to do something," said the Rev. Gerald Osterman, a baby's soft cry drifting through the church. "Certainly, a senseless tragedy like this makes us humble. We realize no matter how much we do, we are not in control."
The names of the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, and his mother, Nancy, whom he allegedly shot four times before opening fire at the school, also were read. "They need our prayers, too," Osterman said.
The shock and grief people now feel could be helped by focusing on three things, he said. Pay more attention to children, choose a victim to pray for, and thank a teacher.
"Teachers are effectively heroes, and indeed, some of them martyrs," said Osterman, a priest for 46 years. "They have done so much for us at the beginning of our lives, teaching us how to read and write . . . Thank them all for what they did for you. And all that they do, day in and day out, unknown to so many."
Six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook were killed while trying to save the children, all of whom were either 6 or 7 years old. People need to take more time to value children, Osterman said.
"Start being more attentive to the young ones that are around us," he said, speaking in a soft, calm tone. "The little ones that populate our city, and our households. Begin to appreciate that precious gift of life, now that suddenly, we are robbed of it."
People's hearts could heal if they pick a victim, and pray for their family, Osterman said.
"Choose a name among one victim who has lost their lives," he said. "For them to know that someone is consistently praying for them, will indeed help them on the journey that lies before them."
The service drew a mix of Everett residents, from senior citizens to parents with young children. Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. attended with his wife and a young daughter. State Senator Sal DiDomenico brought his 6-year-old son, Sal Jr.
"He's the same age as the kids who died," DiDomenico said, rubbing the top of his son's brown hair. "I wanted him here with me."
The soft flicker of candles filled the church, as each person lit a candle to honor the victims. Silent tears glided down people's faces, as they sang "Silent Night," following each other out of the church in a candlelit procession.