Concert of Hope and Healing Seeks To Lift Spirits in Lewiston

A Concert of Hope and Healing, held at Holy Family Church in Lewiston on Sunday, November 12, sought to lift spirits and console the brokenhearted in the wake of the devastating Lewiston shootings that left 18 people dead.

“We know the power of music to heal, the power of music to soothe, the power of music to bring people together,” said Father Daniel Greenleaf, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish, which includes Holy Family Church.

"People need to process grief and trauma. Communal singing is one of the best ways to do that. It brings people together in a way that just gathering normally doesn’t. People sing with one voice. They connect at a level deeper than ordinary contact,” said Scott Vaillancourt, director of music for Prince of Peace Parish.

The choir, which was directed by Vaillancourt, brought together singers from several Lewiston-Auburn church choirs, including the three Lewiston churches of Prince of Peace Parish: the Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul, Holy Cross, and Holy Family.

“I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but I was present during the shooting in Las Vegas [2017], so this was like a re-traumatization for me,” said Karen McArthur, a member of the Holy Family Choir. “What are the chances of somebody from a little town in Maine being involved in two things like this? So, I go to just about any healing thing that I can find.”

“I hope it brings some peace. I really, really do, peace for the families. We’re all part of a family. We’re all affected by the deaths, by the injuries. We’re all injured by this,” said Mary Ellen Davis of Lewiston, a member of the Holy Cross Choir.

Davis was at Seniors Plus, just across a parking lot from Just in Time Recreation, at the time the first shootings occurred there, and she and other members of her group had to be evacuated.

“I was there. I was affected by it, but we were all there in a way. Everybody was because this affected Lewiston. This affected Lewiston-Auburn. This affected Androscoggin County. This affected the entire diocese. This affected the entire community, so I am glad that we were able to open this church to this community so that we can all heal together.”

During the Concert of Hope and Healing, the names of those killed in the shootings were read, after which the Holy Family Choir sang “Go Now in Peace,” and the congregation then joined in singing the "Prayer of St. Francis." Other hymns included "Let There be Peace on Earth," “Here I am Lord,” “Christ be our Light,” and “Amazing Grace.” The hymns were chosen both for their lyrics and for their universality. They were ones with which many different congregations would be familiar.

The concert also featured the hymn “Uri Nkuru,” (“How Great Thou Art”) performed in Kirundi by members of the Chorale Notre Dame de la Paix. Based at the basilica, the choir is made up of immigrants from African nations, primarily Burundi and Rwanda.

“It is to show that we are united, that we are together,” said Delicia Nineza, a choir member. “This is our home now, so we want to support them and want to be with them and help if we can.”

Nearly 200 people attended the concert, many from the Lewiston-Auburn area but others who wanted to be there to offer their support, through presence and song, to a still struggling community.

“I’m a chaplain, and music is healing,” said Sister Patricia Mooney, RSM, who formerly served in Lewiston. “I just wanted to be a part of this healing motion that is happening here, just to spend time in a healing presence.”

"My son is a Lewiston police officer, so it hits very close to home,” said Elizabeth Rosquete, formerly of Lewiston who now lives in Cumberland Foreside. “Everybody has been through a lot, so it’s good that we come together.”

The concert also featured poetry and Scripture readings, and because it fell on Veterans Day weekend, it also included a tribute to veterans. LCDR John Poulin, U.S. Navy (Ret.), a Prince of Peace parishioner, read part of President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Veterans’ Day speech, which was followed by the singing of “America the Beautiful.”

Those who attended the concert were also invited to take home or sign up to receive a soothing “blanket of healing.” The parish received 300 of the weighted blankets from an anonymous donor.

Scott Vaillancourt
Father Raja Thaniyel
Chorale Notre Dame de la Paix