A Mass celebrated on what would have been Boston bombing victim Martin Richard's 9th birthday was standing room only at St. Ann Church in Neponset, Massachusetts.

Church officials counted more than 640 people. Outside the church, the Boston Police Gaelic column played Irish dirges and patriotic anthems. Many uniformed Boston Police, Boston Fire and other First Responders attended the Mass.

His younger sister, seven year old Jane, who is an Irish dancer, lost her left leg below the knee in the bombing. She received a standing ovation as she pushed herself in her wheelchair down the center aisle of the church alongside her friend Fr. Sean Connor. Fr. Connor celebrated the Mass with Bishop Robert Hennessey, Rev. John Connolly and Fr. Michael Banks, OFM Cap.

Before the 10.30am family oriented Mass, Richard’s father Bill spoke for ten minutes about him. Wearing a peace symbol button on his suit lapel, he focused on his son’s best qualities and did not discuss the horrific events that took his son before his time. Bill recalled that while the family was watching the marathon runners race by, Martin had asked his mom how old you had to be to run the marathon. He said Martin would have definitely run in the marathon one day. The Saturday before the Boston Marathon, Martin had run in a marathon related race on Boylston Street and had sprinted past older kids to the finish line.

Martin was an intelligent and curious student who liked math, astronomy, and solving complex problems. He was known for helping younger students with their work and settling disputes.

Martin was a promising athlete who prefered to play basketball than watch tv. He played soccer, baseball, and street hockey. He was a fan of the Boston Bruins and dreamed about being a hockey goalie. Martin loved the chants at Boston Garden games and Bill lead St. Ann’s in 20 second chant of “Mar-tin!, Mar-tin!”

Bill was seated in the first pew with his family, his wife Denise and their older son Henry, who read the second reading of the Liturgy.

As he usually does at the 10.30 Mass, Fr. Connor invited the young children to sit with him on the sanctuary step in front of the altar during his Homily. Surrounded by almost 100 kids, many friends of the Richard children, Fr. Connor talked to Jane about hope. She received loud applause when Fr Conor announced that she had received her First Holy Communion while hospitalized, a year ahead of schedule.

Following the Mass, the Richard family greeted friends and parishioners next door at the Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy Neponset’s campus. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her husband were among those who greeted the Richard family. The line continued from the auditorium around the gym, down the main hallway of the school, out the school and onto Neponset Avenue.