Prayer service held in Waterbury for mayor’s daughter injured in FL crash


WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A prayer service was held at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury for Maggie O’Leary on Thursday afternoon.

Related: Record-holding member of Holy Cross women’s rowing team killed in Florida crash, eight transported to the hospital

Maggie is the daughter of Mayor Neil O’Leary. She was seriously injured in a van crash in Florida involving her College of the Holy Cross rowing team on Wednesday.

Maggie O’Leary (Mayor Neil O’Leary’s office)

The van was carrying members to a practice in Vero Beach when it was involved in a serious crash.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Waterbury – Prayer service for Maggie O’Leary.

The star of the team, 20-year-old sophomore Grace Rett, who had just set a world record for indoor rowing, was reported dead on the scene.

Eight others were also injured in the crash and remain hospitalized.

Maggie is now in a hospital in serious condition.

Maggie O’Leary swearing in her father after his most recent re-election. (Mayor Neil O’Leary’s office)

You could feel the emotion inside the church Thursday afternoon, everyone praying for healing for Maggie and all members of the Holy Cross rowing team involved in the crash.

The church live-streamed the mass so the mayor’s family could watch from Maggie’s hospital room in Florida.

“We pray God’s healing and comfort during this time of need...Our prayers are with you.”

– Father James Sullivan, Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Waterbury

Father Sullivan sent a message directly to the mayor during the service, saying, “From all of us here at the basilica, so many people here today who love you, and praying for you.”

Father Sullivan told the congregation he texted with the mayor Thursday morning, and the mayor reported Maggie was in stable condition.

The mass was packed with Waterbury city workers, aldermen, and the superintendent of schools, even former city employees came to show their support.

The city’s former Police Chief, Vernon Reddick, who now runs the West Hartford Police Department, was there, too. He told News 8 that he’s “devastated that [Maggie] was injured, but so pleased and thankful to God that she [is] alive.”

Waterbury’s current Police Chief, Fernando Spagnolo, is a good friend of the Mayor’s. He told News 8 this incident jolted this city.

“This is tough. We’ve all been through this in life. Everyone that’s listening right now has gotten that phone call of a tragedy that’s occurred and we deal with it and the way we do that is we come together and we rely on each other as a community and we rely on each other as family.”

– Chief Fernando Spagnolo, Waterbury PD
Waterbury PD attend prayer service for Maggie O’Leary held in Waterbury Thursday.

Mayor O’Leary is a very popular figure in Waterbury. At the end of this current term, he will become the longest-continuously-serving mayor in the city’s history.

O’Leary’s staff at city hall told News 8 they’ve received an outpouring of support for the mayor’s family and especially for Maggie.

“He asked that I pass along he and his family’s heartfelt thanks.”

– Mack Demac, Mayor’s Chief of Staff

Thoughts in Waterbury are not only on Maggie but the entire Holy Cross team and their families.

Doctors in Florida have performed six operations on the eight remaining patients, so far. The good news is that the hospital says all of them are expected to survive. 

“Know that we are with you, we are praying for you.”

– Father Sullivan, Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

“We are just gracious and thankful to the Good Lord more people weren’t more seriously injured or killed.”

– Chief Vernon Riddick, Waterbury PD

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