UNDERHILL, VT. (AP) - Always a sacred day in the Catholic faith, Easter Sunday took on special significance this time at the church where hostage sea captain Richard Phillips normally worships.
In a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Church, the Rev. Charles Danielson urged his flock to pray for the safe return of the 53-year-old sea captain being held by Somali pirates for a fifth day.
Drawing a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Phillips’ predicament, the church pastor told about 170 congregants that just as Christ triumphed over evil after being crucified, Phillips was attempting to triumph over the evil of his captors.
“Evil and death and sin do not have the final say,” Danielson said. “That is the essential message of Easter. Love and life, goodness and life, they always are the true realities. The world of terror and war and greed, the world of pirates and criminals large and small who prey on individuals, whole nations and regions of the world, they are the ones on the wrong side of history.”
Phillips’ wife, Andrea, did not attend, having prayed with Danielson during his visit Saturday to the couple’s small white farmhouse. At home, she’s surrounded with “a little cocoon of comfort and support” by family members and friends, Danielson said in an interview after the service.
“She’s incredibly upbeat and optimistic, considering everything she’s going through,” Danielson said.
Phillips, who has been held captive in a lifeboat on the Indian Ocean since the aborted hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship Wednesday off the coast of Somalia, remained on the minds of many in this rural community about 35 miles northwest of Montpelier, the state capital.
“These are trying times for those that are there _ not only Dick Phillips, but the others (being held by pirates),” said parishioner Dick Reyome, 61, walking to his car after Mass.
More yellow ribbons appeared on trees, telephone poles and street signs, a symbol of hope and support from the Phillips’ friends and neighbors. “Pray for Captain Phillips’ release and safe return home,” read a lawn sign on Route 15.
Owen Boardman, a 42-year-old upholsterer who works with Phillips’ brother-in-law, braved 22-degree cold Sunday morning to string yellow ribbon around an Orchard Road street sign, just down the road from the Phillips home. The ribbon was wrapped maypole style, around the pole holding the sign.
He said he hoped it would distract passers-by from thinking about the business meeting or dance class they’re headed to long enough to have a good thought for Phillips.
“You’re five minutes late for dance class? So what? This guy’s five days late in seeing his loved ones,” said Boardman.
Everyone in Underhill is feeling the pain of his predicament, Boardman said.
“You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone affected by this,” he said. “It’s all `Have you heard anything?’ and `What do you know?’ I don’t know if `bringing people together’ is the right word, but it’s a sense of community.”