With bowed heads and tear-filled eyes, a crowd gathered in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Trenton on Monday evening to pray for their priest, the Rev. Stephen Rooney, and parishioner Robert Chiles, both of whom went missing the night before when their boat capsized on the Detroit River.
The search-and-rescue effort turned into a recovery mission Monday, with divers searching the tangles of weeds on the river floor for Rooney, 66, an Irish immigrant who served several parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit in the last three decades, and for Chiles, 52, of Grosse Ile, who had already lost so much.
“It is just so tragic and shocking and sad that as a parish, we just needed to get together,” said Len Bochenek, 53, of Trenton. “It’s a way of healing.”
Rooney was a beacon for many since he came to the city in 2018 to lead the church and its parish school, Bochenek said.
He helped Chiles and his three children through their grief after his wife, Christine Chiles, disappeared in September 2019. A community-wide search that spanned several days ensued. Her body was later found in the water near the boathouse of their home on East River Road. Her death was considered a suicide.
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