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Vigil held for Minnesota couple missing after cruise ship wreck

From Ted Rowlands, CNN
updated 7:26 PM EST, Wed January 18, 2012
  • NEW: Prayer service set for Wednesday evening
  • Retired couple from Minnesota missing after ship runs aground
  • Gerald and Barbara Ann Heil were on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation
  • They are active members in their Catholic church; trip included Vatican visit

White Bear Lake, Minnesota (CNN) -- A Minnesota church held a vigil of hope Tuesday for a husband and wife who are among the two dozen missing after a huge cruise ship ran aground off an Italian island last week.

Gerald and Barbara Ann Heil, members of St. Pius X Catholic Church of White Bear Lake, were on a 16-day Italian vacation that included the cruise and a trip to the Vatican, friends said. They have four grown children.

"It is just so hard to take and put it into words the emptiness many of us feel," said Duane Jabas, a friend.

The couple's daughter, Sarah Heil, said her mother, 70, had not traveled much until Gerald, 69, had retired from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

"They'd been going a lot of places," Sarah Heil told Chicago's WBBM Radio. "I was really happy because they deserved to go on this awesome trip they had planned."

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The Heils are active members and volunteers at their church in White Bear Lake, a community in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region.

St. Pius X will hold a Wednesday evening prayer service for the couple, according to CNN affiliate KARE.

The family is updating the media on a website. It was not clear Tuesday where on the Costa Concordia the Heils were staying.

"At this point we don't have anything new to report," the family posted. "We will await word from the U.S. Embassy and Italian authorities on the newly discovered passengers. Please continue to pray for the other families and the safety of the rescuers."

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