Governor joins archbishop in Sandtown-Winchester for prayer and peace

 

Governor Lawrence J. Hogan greets Eunice Thompson May 3, after a special Mass for peace celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori at St. Peter Claver Parish in West Baltimore. (Olivia Obineme | Special to the Review)

By Erik Zygmont

ezygmont@CatholicReview.org
Twitter @ReviewErik
 
On May 3, designated by Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. as a Day of Prayer and Peace for Baltimore’s healing, a reporter asked Archbishop William E. Lori if it was important to begin the process of addressing systemic injustice with prayer.
“Given my occupation, I think it’s important to start every occasion this way,” replied the archbishop, who had previously asked the Archdiocese of Baltimore to pray for peace that day.
“It’s from prayer,” he said, “that we get the strength and patience we need to love our neighbor.”

Watch a slideshow from the day.

Joined by Hogan, his wife, Yumi, parishioners and a dozen news crews, Archbishop Lori celebrated the Day of Prayer and Peace with a special Mass at St. Peter Claver, located in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, where Freddie Gray lived, and which was hit hard by the looting and destruction April 27 that followed his funeral.
Residents and parishioners were hopeful that change was in motion.
“This is a beginning process,” said parishioner Jamie Johnson. “We all want the same thing – peace. We want justice, peace and unity in the city.”
Darlene Allen is a resident of East Baltimore, but became a parishioner of St. Peter Claver because, “the moment I stepped inside the church, I knew I belonged because of the sense of community.”
“It was extremely hard to watch (the violence) on the news, because that is not the community I understand,” she said. “This was more than an unfortunate death. The youth feel that nobody’s listening to them. … I pray that things are on the upswing.”
Watch a video of Spiritan priests and their ministry at the parishes of St. Edward and St. Gregory the Great in Baltimore.

Similar prayers were offered across the archdiocese.

Bishop Denis J. Madden celebrated Mass at St. Gregory the Great, located not far from where Gray was initially arrested. At 5:15 p.m. Mass May 2 at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park, Father Marc Lanoue, associate pastor, connected the fear referenced in Acts 9:26-31, the first reading, to the situation.
“We can’t always be in control, so we become fearful,” Father Lanoue said. “The accountability that the people of Baltimore are asking for, “is an accountability we must demand of ourselves.”
At Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk, parishioners sang the “Prayer of St. Francis,” the words of which took on special meaning in the wake of Gray’s death and the subsequent riots:
“Make me a channel of your peace,” they sang. “Where there is hatred, let me bring your love. Where there is injury, you pardon, Lord, and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.”
In his homily, Father T. Austin Murphy Jr., pastor, said he noticed that some are asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” The question is flawed, he said, because Jesus is very much alive today. A better question, he said, is, “What is Jesus doing?”
As parishes prayed for peace and justice, Archbishop Lori noted in his homily that St. Peter Claver’s own pastor, Josephite Father Ray Bomberger, has been involved in that effort since the outset.
Traveling through West Baltimore April 28, the morning after the riots, Archbishop Lori said that Father Bomberger was not to be found on the grounds of St. Peter Claver.
“We were told we could find him across the street,” the archbishop said, as parishioners erupted into a standing ovation, “and there he was, a lone figure, starting the cleaning up process.”
Archbishop Lori remembered Gray as “not only as a symbol but a real person who was beset by challenges that face countless young people in this city every day.”
The archbishop also said that Gray’s death – which has since resulted in charges filed against six Baltimore police officers – indicated the presence of “structural sin.”
“It is the sum of people’s injustice or indifference that ends up creating a society where it is difficult, almost impossible, for so many people to flourish – to lead lives that are happy, productive and secure,” Archbishop Lori said.
He told parishioners that before they can make “life-giving connections” with others, “we have to personally encounter the saving love of Jesus.”
“The way that connection is made strong is prayer,” the archbishop added. “We have to look into our own hearts to see what we’re saying or doing to prolong injustice and indifference, to keep the walls of mistrust intact, or what we’re failing to do, to so as to tear down those same walls.”
At the conclusion of Mass, Raymond Kelly, a member of the St. Peter Claver pastoral council as well as president of the No Boundaries Coalition, noted the massive response of volunteers to the stricken area immediately following April 27.
“Help us find a way to bring faith-based education back to West Baltimore,” he appealed to the archbishop. “We have to make sure generations of the future have that seed of faith planted in them so they can respond with the same donation and organization in their time of crisis.”
In a press conference after Mass, Hogan noted that the 3,000 National Guard soldiers in Baltimore were in the process of leaving the city.
“When I came into the city Monday night it was in flames,” he said. “Since then, I saw incredible acts of kindness. I saw neighbors helping neighbors.”
He called the Day of Peace and Prayer “a great way to end the week.”
Archbishop Lori said that he felt hope for the future because of the “abiding presence of the Lord who gathers his people and pours wisdom on us through the Holy Spirit.”
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The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.