'Three-pronged prayer' needed amid Maine mass shootings, says pastor
(OSV News) -- Amid a manhunt for a suspected mass shooter, a pastor in Maine is calling for "three-pronged prayer."
Father Daniel Greenleaf, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, told OSV News that he is interceding for at least 18 people killed and 13 injured in an Oct. 25 attack in his town, as well as for their families and law enforcement.
The shootings, which began around 7 p.m. ET in Maine's second-largest city, took place in two locations: Schemengees Bar and Grille restaurant, and the Just-in-Time Recreation bowling alley, just over 4 miles apart from each other in Lewiston.
Police quickly issued shelter-in-place orders that remained standing for the communities of Lewiston, Lisbon and Bowdoin as of the morning of Oct. 26.
Hundreds of local, regional and federal officials are searching for 40-year-old Robert Card of Bowdoin, a certified firearms instructor and a petroleum supply specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve, who has been named as a person of interest. According to law enforcement, Card -- who had reported having mental health issues -- had recently threatened to attack a National Guard facility in Saco, Maine. He is considered armed and dangerous.
At an Oct. 26 press conference, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said the attack "strikes at the very heart of who we are."
President Joe Biden, who has spoken with Mills, ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset Oct. 30.
Due to the active lockdowns, the five churches that comprise Prince of Peace Parish -- the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Holy Cross, Holy Family, Holy Trinity and Our Lady of the Rosary -- have been temporarily closed, with Mass livestreamed, said Father Greenleaf.
Two of the churches, Holy Cross and Holy Trinity, were particularly close to the shooting and search. Holy Cross is "right up the street" from Schemengees, and Holy Trinity is adjacent to the place a vehicle, believed to be abandoned by Card after the attacks, was found, said Father Greenleaf.
None of the church buildings have been breached due to the shootings or the search, he said -- although the search has come close.
As Father Greenleaf celebrated a livestreamed Oct. 26 Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance, "helicopters and the police came through the streets, and we could hear that during the homily," he said. "It's still a scary situation. (Card is) armed and dangerous."
Father Greenleaf said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland contacted him during the overnight hours and again during the morning of Oct. 26.
The bishop issued an Oct. 26 statement saying he had learned of the shootings with "profound sadness."
Bishop Deeley said "it is heartbreaking to hear of lives lost and dozens injured and to know of the pain and grief that so many families are experiencing.
"We pray for all those impacted by this terrible violence, that the Lord may provide them with consolation in the midst of their sorrow," he said. "In this moment of trial and uncertainty, let us raise up our prayers, asking God to give strength to them and to our community now and in the coming days, and we ask him to protect our law enforcement officers as they seek to prevent further harm. Pray also for our hospital personnel and chaplains who are caring for the injured."
Father Greenleaf said it is not yet clear if any of the victims are parishioners or their loved ones, noting he had confirmed Card is not a member of the parish. The mayor of nearby Auburn, Jason J. Levesque, told CNN several of his residents were impacted, adding there would be "very few people in this community that have not been touched by this."
Prayer and fellowship are critical in this time of tragedy, said Father Greenleaf, who led an online rosary and morning prayer following his Oct. 26 Mass, and who has sent parishwide email messages to reassure his flock.
"As soon as we can open up, we will open up the church and make it a place of prayer, and expose the Blessed Sacrament, and all day long, if we need to, as long as we possibly can," said Father Greenleaf, adding he also is looking to provide counselors if possible.
In the meantime, "I do pray for the law enforcement, that they're doing their job, that God will give them the strength and courage they need to end the crisis," especially amid an overnight search that has left them sleep deprived, he said.
"And then (we) certainly (pray) for the families that have been affected, and then the souls who have died," said Father Greenleaf. "So let's send some graces toward the law enforcement. And then let's take care of the families."
"While it may seem impossible to find hope in a time such as this, we can draw hope from our spiritual roots, trusting that a loving God will not abandon us," said Bishop Deeley in his statement. "As we pray to him in our various ways, may he strengthen us and show us the way forward during the difficult days that lie ahead."
- - - Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @GinaJesseReina