(RNS) – Hours after an SUV driver embarked on a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, the Catholic community of Waukesha gathered for a bilingual Monday evening (November 22) prayer service for all those affected by the accident which killed at least five people and injured nearly 50 others.
“We all come here tonight with a story of what happened yesterday,” said Reverend Matthew Widder, who led the prayer service, which was conducted in English and Spanish. “Some of us were there on the parade route, others were watching at home and suddenly saw something interrupting the news or social media. We are all connected in one way or another.
“We come here tonight with many people who rely on our prayers,” Widder added. “We also come here as a healing body. We trust and know that as people of faith healing will come.
The Catholic Community of Waukesha – a network of the four parishes of Waukesha – said in a statement on facebook that several parishioners were injured and hospitalized. Reverend Pat Heppe was also hospitalized and released, Widder said during the service. Counselors from Catholic Charities were present at the service, which was held at St. William Parish.
Police Chief Dan Thompson said there was no evidence Sunday’s crash was a terrorist attack or that the suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., knew anyone in the parade, according to the Associated Press.
Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, had left the site of a domestic disturbance before police arrived and was not being pursued by police at the time of the crash, Thompson said.
Police identified those killed as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52 years old; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81 years old. Among the injured, several were children.
The horrors of the incident have been documented on social media, including the city’s Facebook feed. Images from the city show locals in coats and beanies, cheering and watching performers wearing Santa hats parading along the parade route. The parade came to a halt as police vehicles sped past.
In the midst of the crisis, Widder told worshipers they should be proud of their city, seeing how law enforcement, hospital workers and ordinary people have responded to the crisis.
“It was absolutely amazing and inspiring, the way people came out of the streets with blankets for people…
“In the midst of the crisis, there were angels and saints who stepped forward – absolutely amazing and an absolute wonder to behold,” Widder said.
Widder added, “Jesus weeps with Waukesha yesterday, today and in the future, but Jesus also wishes to bring healing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.