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Standing room only at Stacey Burns funeral mass

AFTER THE FUNERAL MASS for Stacey Burns last Friday people gathered in front of St. Katharine Drexel Church holding carnations that were distributed, along with 100 pink balloons. The balloons were later released with messages from the children Burns had cared for as school nurse. (Jeanne Tempest photo) (click for larger version)
May 21, 2009
ALTON — A crowd estimated at between 700 and 800 people arrived at St. Katharine Drexel Church last Friday morning, May 15, to attend a Mass of the Resurrection, celebrating the life of Stacey Burns.

There was standing room only in the side aisles and rear of the church, the narthex was full to overflowing, the choir loft was full and others who could not get inside the church stood outside throughout the Mass. There were many young children and teenagers filling the pews, along with the adults in attendance, mourning the loss of the mother of five who was murdered on Mothers' Day, May 10.

Before the beginning of the funeral service, Scott Lounsbury sang the Ave Maria.

The Rev. Robert Cole, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Church, and the Rev. Richard Wegman, his assistant, concelebrated the Mass. Also processing in with the casket were the Rev. Randy Dales, pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Wolfeboro; the Rev. James Christiansen and the Rev. Debra Moore, both of First Congregational Church in Wolfeboro; and the Rev. Mark Larson of the Melvin Village Community Church. The visiting clergy were seated in the sanctuary throughout the Mass.

Pallbearers draped the casket with a white pall. Fr. Wegman placed a crucifix on the pall and Rev. Christiansen placed a Book of Gospels next to the crucifix. Scott Lounsbury led the congregational singing. Burns family friend Brittany Tufts read the Old Testament passage. Lounsbury sang the responsorial psalm, and Peggy Hart, a close friend of Stacey Burns, read the New Testament passage. Fr. Wegman read the Gospel, and Fr. Cole delivered the homily, which he spoke directly to the five Burns children. He told them their mother had been loved and that the mourners in attendance also loved them.

Another friend, Paula Walsh, read the general intercessions, with responses from those in attendance. Jan Brooks, principal of Carpenter Elementary School, where Burns had been the school nurse, delivered the eulogy, in which she quoted from students' writings about their relationship with Burns.

During the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, all clergy stood at the altar, holding hands, as did many in the pews. At the end of the Mass, Burns' sister Kelly and her brother Michael spoke of their sister. Kelly referred to her as "my best friend," saying she turned to her sister frequently for advice. Michael related an incident that occurred when he was four years old and Burns was three. He fell into an abandoned well on their aunt's property and Burns ran for help, having to convince her aunt that Michael was in danger.

Teenagers Molly Hart and Brittany Tufts read a poem they had written, describing a day in the life of Stacey Burns. Kevin Wadlinger accompanied his sister Erin on the guitar as she sang The Prayer at the end of the Mass.

Fr. Cole announced that carnations would be handed out as people left the church. There were 100 pink balloons given to children, who later sent them aloft bearing messages, a breeze blowing them to the east. Winnifred and Dick O'Shaughnessy were in charge of the tables of finger foods and desserts in the Monsignor St. Pierre meeting room on the lower level of the church. Food had been donated by a host of people, and there was an overabundance. One person commented that, in this part of the country, there is always food for the spirit in the ceremony of remembrance and food for the body at most funerals.

A wake took place in Natick, Mass., Sunday evening, May 17, followed by a second funeral service and interment on Monday, May 18.

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