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Minn. Community Prays for Retirees Missing in Italian Cruise Wreck

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn.) -- Friends of missing retirees Jerry and Barbara Heil are planning a prayer service for the Minnesota couple, who haven’t been heard from since the cruise ship they were on capsized off the coast of Tuscany last Friday night.

On Tuesday, divers recovered five bodies from the wreckage of the Concordia Costa -- four men and a woman -- although it’s unclear if the Heils were among them.

“At this point we don’t have anything new to report,” said the latest posting on the Heil family’s blog.  “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.”

The uncertainty has prompted a 24-hour prayer vigil at the church the Heils attend.

“The sense from fellow parishioners is that there is still a lot of hope,” said Dr. Larry Erickson, the parish administrator at the Church of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake.  The 1,500-member parish will hold a prayer service for the Heils on Wednesday night.

Sixty-nine-year-old Jerry, a retired state worker, and Barbara, 70, a cancer survivor, attended mass every morning, and would often come early to pray the rosary.  Their absence leaves a void.

“I see Jerry and Barb every day.  It’s a different kind of missing them right now,” said Erickson.

The Heils are parents to four grown children and have 15 grandchildren.  They are well known for their devotion to family and faith.  Friends describe them as a quiet couple who would volunteer to run church dinners, make meals for those in need and drive neighbors to medical appointments.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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