Praising God for teen's safe return Print
State News
Written by Anita Draper, Superior Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
jayme closs thanks
Hundreds gather at St. Peter Church in Cameron, Wis., to thank God for Jayme Closs’ escape from abduction. (Catholic Herald photo/Anita Draper)

CAMERON, Wis. -- Faith runs deep in Barron County. The story of Jayme Closs’ abduction and escape is one of hope and courage, but it is also a story of faith, prayer, and triumph over evil.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, at St. Peter Catholic Church, Cameron, family, friends, parish members, and the wider community gathered to praise God for Jayme’s safe return.

The ecumenical service brought a sense of closure and catharsis to the community, whose members have wept and prayed together since the October murder of Jim and Denise Closs and the abduction of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, but the joy was muted by remembrance of their deaths and acknowledgement of a young girl’s immeasurable suffering.

Prayers of thanksgiving

Fr. John Gerritts, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Hudson, and supervising pastor of parishes in the region, led the prayer service, which included prayers of thanksgiving for law enforcement, schools, friends, the community, Jim and Denise Closs, Jayme, and the blessings of God.

Contemporary Catholic musicians Luke Spehar, a Twin Cities-based singer/ songwriter, and Aly Aleigha, a Rice Lake native, performed.

The 300-seat worship area was filled to capacity, with overflow seating in the hall.

“Lord, we are grateful that faith has triumphed over evil,” Father Gerritts said in his opening prayer.

An outsider to the parish, Father Gerritts characterized Jayme’s return as “one of the great miracles of our time” and praised a community that has endured trials and tribulations in the last two years -- a deadly, record-breaking tornado, and the murders and abduction of the Closses -- without blaming one another, pointing fingers, or losing hope.

Never giving up hope -- and gratitude to a community that encouraged, supported, and continually fed his staff -- was the theme of Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald’s address.

At one point, more than 340 officers -- his 87 employees, state, and local law enforcement and federal officials -- were all together for one briefing.

Today, they are thankful for Jayme’s strong will to survive.

“We will never give up hope again, and we never did,” he said.

Feeling grateful

Diane Tremblay, administrator of the Barron School District, told Jayme, “We are so grateful for you,” and praised the community’s response to the tragedy.

Tremblay spoke of finding “more meaning in everything” at the first Mass she attended after Jayme’s return -- she quoted Isaiah 40:1, “Give comfort to my people, says your God,” among others -- and spoke of keeping the Closs family in her personal prayers and saying the Rosary for an increase in faith, hope, and charity.

“Jayme presents an increase in all three of those virtues . . . and that’s nothing short of extraordinary,” she added.

Musician Aly Aleigha, stage name of Aly Schissel, was on tour when Jayme was taken. She was inspired to write “Labyrinth,” a song about hope, strength, and courage, and dedicated it to Jayme at every performance.

Jayme’s cousin, Amanda Hoard, wept before offering a prayer of thankfulness for friends, and a prayer for healing.

Jayme’s friends Katie Kohel and Bailey Hauck said a prayer for her. Asked to describe her before the ordeal, “We would have said she was kind and caring, quiet, and talented,” but now, “we’d also say strong, courageous, inspiring, and loved so much.”