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Life — And Giving — Goes On At A Lawrence Church That's Still Without Gas03:35
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Rev. Paul O'Brien led mass at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence Sept. 23. (Callum Borchers/WBUR)
Rev. Paul O'Brien led mass at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence Sept. 23. (Callum Borchers/WBUR)
This article is more than 3 years old.

One week after flames engulfed her home's boiler, in a pipeline disaster that has left much of the Merrimack Valley without natural gas, Maureen Fraser was where she always is on Thursday nights: choir practice at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence.

And on Sunday morning, Fraser's voice helped fill the sanctuary with hymns and a sense of normalcy — if only for an hour. She said she took comfort in the homily delivered by the Rev. Paul O'Brien, who told parishioners it's OK to feel traumatized.

"Like the priest at the service [said] today, I will agree, it was new; then the trauma set in," Fraser said. "Then you realize this is only a bunch of days. What are weeks going to do? We've got winter coming. It's the pipes freezing and all sorts of things."

Fraser said she has a tentative date for her boiler to be replaced: the Monday before Thanksgiving.

"That'll be a great Thanksgiving if it is turned on," she said. "Do you buy those turkeys and freeze them, hoping to cook them? I don't know."

Columbia Gas — whose Sept. 13 pipeline explosion disrupted service to roughly 8,600 properties in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover — has been distributing hot plates to affected customers and plans to give out space heaters.

The people of St. Patrick Parish have been giving, too, said O'Brien, even though many have needs of their own.

"The morning after the explosions — no gas, no electricity — but we opened the doors and were able to distribute really good meals in the form of bagged meals to go," O'Brien said. "And dinner that day, and breakfast the next day, and dinner the next day. Through all of this, we've been able to provide really robust food."

During Sunday's service, people reached into their pockets to fill offering baskets.

"They're good Christians," Paul Lamm said of his fellow parishioners, as he left Mass. "They're just good Christian people; that's what they are. They understand the situation, and what they can do to give to help others is wonderful. And they're doing that."

The St. Patrick congregation includes Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. He was in the pews Sunday morning, along with his wife and two young children. At one point, O'Brien called up the whole Rivera family. The priest laid his left hand on the mayor's head and prayed over him.

Then the congregation gave Rivera a round of applause.

"He's just showing his leadership," said Mukena Mbiye, who has attended St. Patrick for 15 years. "I say we really are blessed to have him as our mayor."

This segment aired on September 24, 2018.

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Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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