A response to 'brokenness'

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Three days after the shooting of Michael Brown and two days after the start of rioting in Ferguson, about 500 people gathered to celebrate back-to-school night at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish.

School children, their families and former school families as well came out to "let the world know that we are people of faith and the seed of love and hope resides in our hearts," as pastor Father Robert Rosebrough said.

Never mind that protesters and police clashed two miles away near the burned-out QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue; there was an island of normalcy at this time and in this place.

"People really felt free and safe in this part of God's Garden," said Father Rosebrough, who noted that 80 percent of BTC students live in the parish -- which is composed of 10 communities in 24 square miles. "It is the heart of our parish."

While public schools in the Ferguson-Florissant School District remained closed and delayed the start of classes until at least Monday, Aug. 25, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta started right on time Aug. 14, with full-day classes the week of Aug. 18.

Just 2½ miles from the rioting, Our Lady of Guadalupe School started school Aug. 20. The parish also held its Hispanic Festival as scheduled Aug. 17 at January-Wabash Park in Ferguson, with one notable change in plans.Rosary at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish

Days before the festival, Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND, the parish's pastoral associate, invited Bishop Edward M. Rice to celebrate the Spanish Mass to kick off the festivities. She cleared the invite with pastor Father John-Paul Hopping and called Bishop Edward M. Rice.

"I thought we should have a Catholic presence," Sister Cathy said.

After juggling his calendar, Bishop Rice jumped onboard. Father Hopping and Father José Santiago, OP, concelebrated and Deacon Jim Powers assisted at the make-shift altar in the park pavilion. Bishop Rice got to use his newfound Spanish-language skills from an immersion course last month in San Antonio, celebrating Mass in Spanish and delivering his homily in Spanish and in English.

"We pray for peace. Thy will be done," he said. "We pray for security in our neighborhood. Thy will be done. We pray for help. Thy will be done."

On the morning of the Mass, Bishop Rice decided to visit the memorial site where Brown died on Canfield Drive and the QT site on West Florissant. Msgr. Jack Schuler accompanied him as he prayed at the memorial, including Eternal Rest.

"We can't be afraid to live," Sister Cathy said. "It was natural to keep the festival for the people."

Each parish held feast day Masses for the Assumption of Mary on the evening of Aug. 14 and on Aug. 15 and Sunday Masses as scheduled. Other than Bishop Rice celebrating the Spanish Mass, the only change related to the violence was the Rosary services at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta on Aug. 11 and 18, and set for each Monday moving forward at the parish grotto.

The Rosary gathering numbered about 100 on the 11th and about 150 on the 18th, including Bishop Rice and a dozen students from Washington University.

On the BTC website, Father Rosebrough noted the "brokenness" in the community and asked, "Do we walk away, or is there another response?"

Scripture provided him the answer.

"When I am broken and at a loss for words and direction, I need to hear the Father and Jesus call, 'Come to Me!'" he wrote. "That invitation is what should be our seed for the future. I honestly believe that this is a powerful moment for us here in Ferguson and at Blessed Teresa. At this moment, our parish community and Ferguson is a womb that is ready to receive the word from God.

"We need His Spirit, His Presence as we discern and be a part of the Grace response to help build a healthier community."


 

Read all stories on the unrest in Ferguson at www.stlouisreview.com/ferguson.

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