SMITHFIELD — More than 300 hundred gathered in the parish center of St. Michael Church Wednesday, Oct. 9, to embrace each other as a faith community and lovingly surround Noah Antunes, 10, and his family in healing prayer.
A sea of support shown not only in their prayers and presence, but in green shirts and bows that filled the parish hall. Noah’s friends presented candles before a community of loved ones as the prayer service began for the fifth grader who was in the hospital fighting for his life.
On Oct. 1, Noah’s parents, David and Amy Antunes, received the difficult news that Noah has Burkitt Lymphoma. Since then, the young boy has undergone an ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, X-Ray, surgery and chemotherapy, according to his parent’s updates on the public Facebook group “Noah’s Fight.”
The Antunes family are parishioners of the Smithfield parish where they attend weekly Mass and faith formation classes. Upon hearing of the news, the tightknit parish community didn’t hesitate to come together in Noah’s time of need.
Bill Bowden, pastoral assistant at St. Michael Church, shared that the news of Noah’s diagnosis spread very quickly and Father Richard Valentine, pastor, immediately went to visit with the family at the hospital.
“A friend of the family called and mentioned that she heard friends of the children in town were talking about how they would like to pray for Noah and his family. So, with Father Valentine’s direction we immediately planned this, ‘Coming Together for Noah’ prayer service for them, and for our parish community and neighbors,” explained Bowden.
Father Valentine led the community in prayer Wednesday night, turning to Jesus out of concern for Noah’s health and to seek his healing.
“We come together for Noah to pray for him and his family, with the Lord’s assurance, that our hearts and souls will find peace and relief even as we ask the Lord to help Noah in his time of need,” said Father Valentine.
“Our community has been pulling together for Noah, and his family from the moment we heard of his illness by phone calls, text messages, cards and t-shirts. The doctors and medical staff at Hasbro Children’s Hospital have been pulling together for Noah with their knowledge, therapies and medicine. And in the Gospel, Jesus assures us that he too is pulling for Noah. So, with faith and trust in the Lord, let us continue to seek Christ’s help and strength. Christ makes us strong and Christ will make Noah strong.”
In a special video message posted on the Facebook group, Noah said smiling, “I just wanted to say that I’m doing better and thanks for all of the support. Miss you all.”
Words of encouragement are coming in from all across the state and beyond. New York City’s Fire Department shared a photo that they are #NoahStrong, families have kept a green light shining on their homes in honor of Noah, and countless schools and sports teams have also made homemade signs of strength.
Even Gronk sent Noah some love. Rob Gronkowski, the former New England Patriots tight end, shared a special video message for Noah.
“I just want to say stay strong, stay positive and you’ll be back out there on the baseball field soon. Take care man!” Gronkowski said in his message.
At the end of the prayer service, Noah’s father David thanked all those present and the many who have reached out, on behalf of their entire family.
“We are really blessed to have such a great church. It was really shocking to us and our families. We are just getting support from one end of town to the other. We would never be able to say thank you enough. It’s beyond words. Noah is doing a lot better. I can tell you he is back to the old Noah, flirting with all of the nurses.”
He added that the care from the oncology team at Hasbro Children’s Hospital has been phenomenal and that he is in good hands.
“Noah is going to win this — he doesn’t lose.”
Please keep David, Amy and their sons Matthew and Noah in your prayers.