LEWISTON — A somber vigil at Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Sunday evening drew thousands to honor the 18 people killed in last week’s shooting spree and seek solace from one another in the hope of healing a shattered community.

The “One Lewiston Community Vigil” featured an array of faith leaders from the area offering their thoughts, and stirring music that filled the huge, vaulted sanctuary of Lewiston’s most visible and magnificent building.

“Tonight, our community is together, as it should be,” said emcee Tom Caron, a Lewiston native who is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network, better known as NESN.

Rabbi Shruli Dresner of Temple Shalom in Auburn said the community should look the “unbearable, soul-crushing pain” of the massacre in the eye and not shy away from it.

Pain, he said, “is a gift from God” meant to “protect us from worse things.”

A crowd of at least 1,000 gathers Sunday evening for the “One Lewiston Community Vigil” at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 122 Ash St. in Lewiston. The gathering is to memorialize the 18 victims of the mass shooting Wednesday night. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

Thomas Brown, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, said the pain everyone is feeling is temporary.


“Healing is permanent,” he said, adding that those with broken hearts can in time find their souls nurtured.

Kevin Bohlin, a leader in Maine’s deaf community, spoke in part to honor four deaf men who were among those who perished at Schemengees Bar & Grille when a gunman opened fire Wednesday after first shooting people at a bowling alley on the other side of the city.

The killing, he said, “hit so close to our home and the heart of our community.”

Bohlin said the dead “are directing us to come together and make a difference in this world” and to recognize that in the darkest time, “our community’s strength will shine the brightest.”

At Bohlin’s urging, most of those attending lifted their hands to form the “I love you” sign in American Sign Language.

“They will always be a part of our hearts,” Bohlin said.


Members of the deaf community sign “I love you” on Sunday evening at the “One Lewiston Community Vigil” at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 122 Ash St. in Lewiston. The gathering is to memorialize the 18 victims of the mass shooting Wednesday night. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The vigil, which lasted an hour, did not invite political leaders to speak, but many of them were present, including Gov. Janet Mills, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden.

The most prominent voice addressing the crowd came secondhand, via a letter read by Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland.

Deeley read from a Vatican letter he received that included passages that indicated Pope Francis “was deeply saddened to learn of the terrible loss of life resulting from the mass shooting Lewiston and he expressed his spiritual closeness to all those suffering from this unspeakable tragedy, especially the families who lost loved ones.”

Deeley said the pope commended the souls of the dead and prayed for the injured and the medical personnel caring for them. He also hailed the efforts of first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public.

“With God’s grace, we can overcome evil with good,” the pope said, according to the letter.

Imams and ministers speaking to the mostly solemn crowd echoed the sentiment, urging people toward unity, compassion and hope.


Caron acknowledged it will not be easy given the murders are “the biggest challenge this community has ever known.”

But, he said, while city’s strength is “being put to the test,” he has confidence its work ethic and willingness to stick together will lead Lewiston to better days.

“This is a community capable of great things,” Deeley said.

“We can never allow Lewiston to be remembered for violence,” Caron said.

The Rev. Todd Little of the First United Pentecostal Church of Lewiston said, “We will not be defined by the tragedies that have happened here.”


The Rev. Allen Austin of Pathways Vineyard Church in Lewiston said that going forward, Lewiston will not be the same as in the past.

Despite “the broken actions of human beings” that led to so much heartache, Austin said people can emerge kinder, more compassionate and more merciful.

“Please, Lewiston, do not lose hope,” Austin said.

The Rev. Sarah Gillespie of Androscoggin Home Health + Hospice, who read the names of the dead, each accompanied by a tolling bell, praised the community’s response so far.

She urged everybody to “stay strong, stay kind and stick together.”

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