An overflow crowd packed St. Ann Church in Neponset this morning for a celebration of the life of Martin Richard, a Dorchester boy who would have turned 9 this weekend if he had not been killed on April 15 by one of two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon.
Seated in the front pew were his family: Parents Bill and Denise Richard, their elder son Henry— who read the second reading at the Liturgy— and Martin’s little sister, Jane, 7, who lost her left leg below the knee in the bomb attack. Jane wheeled herself around in a wheelchair — and won a standing ovation from the congregation as she pushed herself up St. Ann’s center aisle alongside her friend, Fr. Sean Connor. The St. Ann’s pastor con-celebrated the Mass with Bishop Robert Hennessey, Rev. John Connolly and Fr. Michael Banks, OFM Cap.
The 10:30 a.m. family-oriented Mass at the Neponset Ave. church always draws a large crowd, but this morning there were nearly as many people standing as there were seated. Ushers counted more than 640 people in attendance, according to church officials. Outside, pipers from the Boston Police Gaelic column played a mixture of Irish dirges and more upbeat, patriotic anthems.
Before the Mass began, just after 10:30 a.m., Martin’s father Bill Richard took the podium and delivered stirring remarks about his son. Richard, who wore a button on his suit lapel emblazoned with peace symbol, spoke for more than 10 minutes. (The Richard family has requested that his address not be quoted directly.) A poster-size portrait of a smiling Martin stood a few feet away as his dad spoke.
Richard addressed each of his surviving family-members by name, praising their courage in the wake of the Patriot’s Day bombing that stole his younger son. Richard did not discuss the events of that awful day or mention the alleged culprits. Bill recalled that as the family watched the marathon runners pass by, Martin had asked his mother how old you had to be to run in the race. Martin, his dad said confidently, would have definitely run Boston some day. In fact, Martin did run in a marathon-related road race along Boylston Street on the Saturday before the bombing— and Bill recalled watching his son sprinting towards the finish line, passing older kids…
…Martin’s name was invoked throughout the hour-and-a-half liturgy, which was led by Fr. Sean Connor, the pastor at St. Ann’s who has been ministering to the Richard family since their ordeal began. Fr. Connor, a former police officer who is known for his sense of humor during Mass, set the tone early— telling the Mass-goers that there would be no collection at the Mass, but that “singing is required and being happy is required.”