Local

Parish rushes to support injured Weymouth girl, family

byChristine Tolfree
8/13/2004

WEYMOUTH — When 13 year old Maggie Flaherty was struck by a car on her street July 23, fellow parishioners from Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth quickly mobilized to rally around the girl and her family.

Less than 24 hours after the accident, which occurred on a Friday night, parishioners made countless calls and invited everyone who knew Maggie to Saturday’s 4 p.m. Mass, which they dedicated to the girl. Since then, they have started a prayer line, placed candles in neighborhood windows and celebrated four additional Masses on weeknights with special intentions for the girl. Over 500 people have attended each Mass.

n her 23 years as an educator Mary Ferrucci, Maggie’s principal at Sacred Heart School, said she has never seen such a caring community.

"You would have thought it was Christmas," she said about the number of people attending each Mass dedicated to Maggie.

The community effort spread two weeks ago when parishioners were asked to place white electric candles in their home windows to symbolize hope for Maggie’s recovery. The candles are also in the windows of the school and rectory.

"You see those lights all over Weymouth," said Ferrucci.

At a Mass on Aug. 9 several of Maggie’s Sacred Heart classmates participated in the opening procession and lit candles for the girl. Other classmates proclaimed the readings and petitions, presented the gifts and acted as altar servers.

"They're taking a real active role in the Mass," said Ferrucci. "They're a great class."

After Communion Maggie’s aunt, Sheila Buchanan, thanked the people of Sacred Heart for their support and prayers that she believes saved Maggie’s life.

Maggie, who has come out of her coma and is now talking, sent a message with her aunt. When asked what she would like to say to the people of Sacred Heart, Maggie whispered, “Thank you.”

Speaking with The Pilot after the Mass, Buchanan said her niece’s recovery is truly a miracle. Buchanan, a nurse, said the original prognosis was grim, and doctors did not know if the girl would live. Maggie is now moving, breathing on her own and began speaking Aug. 8.

Originally the family did not know about the outpouring of support from Sacred Heart parish community because they were all gathered at the hospital. News of the Masses and other displays of support traveled to the hospital with Sacred Heart’s priests as they visited. In additional to offering their prayers, parishioners have prayed, brought food for the family and taken care of the family dogs.

"It has been unbelievable," said Buchanan. "They're a great group of people. Sacred Heart is the best."

As the congregation processed out of the church, singing “This Little Light of Mine,” everyone seemed energized by the news of Maggie’s improving condition. People gathered, talking, laughing and hugging. Parochial vicar Father Harry J. Kaufman greeted people with a smile, a laugh and a “good to see you.”

As she was walking out, Taylor Murphy, one of Maggie’s friends, said of the Mass, “It helps everyone get together and cope.” Murphy, 14, proclaimed a reading at the Mass and is one of Maggie’s classmates.

In addition to the Masses, other steps have been taken to help Maggie’s classmates deal with the accident. Michelle Lacey, a fellow-parishioner who has known Maggie for nine years, invited Maggie’s classmates over for a cookout on Aug. 6. One of her daughters is a good friend of Maggie and the other is in the school choir with her. Lacey organized the event to give students a chance to talk about the incident before school starts.

"Some of them have questions," she said.

It is unlikely that Maggie will be in school when it starts, but her classmates want to help her feel a part of the class. They plan to make periodic videos, keep a journal and pray for her during school, Lacey said.

People who know Maggie describe her as an active, outgoing, enthusiastic and friendly. She sings in both her parish and school choir, plays in the Weymouth soccer and basketball leagues, takes dance and hip-hop lessons. Maggie has attended Sacred Heart School since kindergarten and is expected to graduate from the eighth grade at the end of this school year. She has three older brothers and a younger sister, Jessica, who also attends Sacred Heart School.

Family and friends across the country have joined the prayer line that is organized through on the church’s website.

"People are praying for her everywhere," said Father Kaufman.

While celebrating a recent Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Quincy, Father Kaufman asked those in attendance if he could offer a special intention for Maggie. They told him, “Oh we’re already praying for her, Father,” he said.

Maggie’s doctors say the prayers are working and others believe their prayers are being heard, too.

"We believe in the power of prayer. We all feel our prayers are making a difference," said Sacred Heart music director Mary Beth Brady. Brady has organized the music for all the special Masses, picking out some of Maggie's favorites.

"We've tried to center our songs around hope and trust," she said. They are all hoping that Maggie will get better and trusting in God that she will, Brady said.

"Everyone's just pulling big time for Maggie, and praying a lot for her," said Sacred Heart's pastor, Father Daniel J. Riley. "It's getting better everyday. We're thrilled."

For information about the Sacred Heart prayer line, visit http://www.sacredheart

weymouth.org.