Faiths unite in Hartford service to mark day of prayer
Saturday, September 15, 2001 - Dixon.firstname.lastname@example.org
HARTFORD -- More than 3,000 voices lifted in song and prayer Friday during an emotional service attended by people of all faiths in an overflowing Cathedral of St. Joseph.
The hour-long prayer service was led by statewide leaders of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, the Bahai Faith, Hindus and Jews.
Gov. John G. Rowland, during remarks that focused on the need to heal the region and nation, said his high school mentor was among those killed Tuesday aboard one of the hijacked airliners. The Rev. Frank Grogan was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston, which slammed into a World Trade Center tower.
"I know if Father Frank was with us here today, in flesh as well as in spirit, he would ask us to be persuaded by our better natures," Rowland said, adding that Grogan was his religion teacher at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury. "If Father Frank had not been on that flight, he most likely would have been at a service like this one. Urging us to carry on, or helping us to understand."
Rowland, who later met in New York City with President Bush, said there's much more to the national crisis than merely rebuilding the World Trade Center and punishing terrorists.
"But if one result of this horrible tragedy is that each of us pledges to fight against evil, to stand in ways large and small against hatred and intolerance and to live as a community, then the terrorists will not have won," Rowland said.
The governor said the United States must not only become stronger, but kinder and "more sensitive to each other." The service, which included prayers and remarks from religious leaders of all beliefs, drew tears from many who jammed the landmark Roman Catholic cathedral. Many, unable to get into the giant church, crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in the narthex, or lobby.
Others stood on the steps, without umbrellas in the rain, listening to the service from the turned-up radios of two Hartford police cars. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut Committee for Interreligious Understanding, was presided over by Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford,
The Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., executive director of the Christian Conference of Connecticut, said believers of all faiths should help the healing process. "It's our purpose to promote love, not hate; "justice, not vengeance; and to express our unity with one another."
At the end, everyone stood and sang the three verses of "America the Beautiful" printed on the back of the ceremony's program, then drifted slowly out of the cathedral.
"My wife said let's go to St. Joseph," said Raymond Bain, 76, a retired carpenter from East Hartford, wiping tears from his eyes. He described the service as "very devoted, serious, sad just talking about it gets my emotions going."
"I wanted to be here, praying with everybody else," said Kathy Simeone, 32, of East Hartford, who brought her 3-year-old son, Andrew, to the service, one of hundreds throughout the state on the national day of prayer.
She said that when her son grows up, he might not remember the service. But Simeone hopes Andrew doesn't remember her tearful reaction when they watched television as hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center.
Ken Dixon, who covers the Capitol, can be reached at (860) 549-4670.
©Copyright 2001, Connecticut Post