On the shores of Lake Michigan and with the Chicago skyline to the north, people gathered in prayer early Saturday, Aug. 3 in hopes of bringing an end to the violence that has plagued the city.
The Black Catholic Deacons of Chicago, in partnership with priests, deacons and clergy of the Archdiocese of Chicago, conducted their 9th annual Sunrise Mass for Nonviolence and Peace at Oakwood Beach on the city’s South Side.
In July, Chicago saw 288 shootings, 40 of them fatal. There have been 1,585 shootings in this city so far this year.
“If you call yourself Christian this day, act like one,” Deacon Herbert Johnson of St. Katharine Drexel Parish said during his homily.
An estimated 250 worshippers gathered at the beach to pray for peace and the healing of families, schools and communities affected by violence.
“Our children are dying,” Johnson said in his closing remarks. “We need them to listen up. We need to bring children to church. We need to bring them up right. We want them to be the light.”
Deacon LeRoy Gill of St. Dorothy Catholic Church read from a 2013 prayer card from one of his parishioners who has since passed away. Her prayer was “to end the violence in the city.”
“We have been praying a long time,” Gill said.
He noted the Mass was important because Jesus said that we should pray and never give up.
The Rev. Paul Whittington, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, led prayers for peace.
“We call on the Lord to help us end the violence across our city,” Whittington said. “We all need to try to become better persons.”
Johnson said that questions we ask about violence are misdirected.
“Prayer folk have been asking from the beginning of time ‘Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people have to suffer?’ We ask, ‘Why do our children die by gunfire?’ We should be asking, ‘How do we respond?’ It is up to us to respond in faith.’”
He noted that prayer would make a difference in the city.
“Prayer changes things,” Johnson said.