Prayerful events in Ferguson cite peace, justice

Prayer is the simplest and easiest thing for a person to do.

If the prayer is a Rosary to Our Lady, rosary beads are the only thing necessary, though the digits of hands or feet work just as well. Otherwise, you need nothing.

To pray, you may kneel, stand, sit or lay on your back or front, whatever pose you're in. You make the Sign of the Cross, pray an Our Father, Hail Mary or whatever is on your heart, make another Sign of the Cross, and you're done.

The act of prayer is simple; the results can be profound.

The simple act of prayer was at the center of two events in Ferguson on Oct. 9, where two months to the day previous, a young, unarmed black man named Michael Brown was shot dead by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The incident prompted violence and protests that made Ferguson the center of not only national but international news. Except for a few flare-ups, violence on the small section of West Florissant Avenue largely has subsided, but the embers of the racial firestorm remain hot. Ferguson residents nervously await a grand jury's decision on whether to indict Wilson.

Against this smoldering backdrop, the two prayerful events took place one after the other on Oct. 9, barely a mile apart.

At January-Wabash Park on North Florissant Road, Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice led about 75 clergy and religious in a Rosary and Divine Chaplet of Mercy, and Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND, the pastoral associate at nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, led a prayer to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

Then, at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church on the corner of North Elizabeth Avenue and Chambers Road, the parish's new Life Teen group held a Night of Prayer for Ferguson featuring Catholic musicians Ike Ndolo and Emily Wilson. Ndolo and Wilson raised the volume in the church with their singing and music, Ndolo spoke a few words to the roughly 225 people on hand and, finally, Blessed Teresa pastor Father Robert Rosebrough solemnly came out with a Host for Benediction.

Simple acts; simple, prayerful acts.

"There's nothing I'm going to say to make things better ... but I do want to share not my words, but the word of God," Ndolo said. "It's Psalm 103, verse 6: The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. Psalm 106, 3, Blessed are they who deserve justice who do righteousness at all times. This is Psalm 10, 17 to 18: Oh, Lord, thou will hear the desire of the meek, thou will strengthen their hearts, thou will incline thy ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will strike terror no more."

Religious Rosary and prayer

Independent discussions led to the prayer gathering at January-Wabash Park. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice talked with Catholic Charities of St. Louis about Ferguson and what could be done beyond the outreach and plans already in place. Meanwhile, Sister Cathy Doherty had the same conversation with Msgr. Jack Schuler, the former pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Then, Bishop Rice spoke with Sister Cathy.

"Everybody kind of was thinking the same thing," Bishop Rice said. "We wanted to do something simple. No P.R. No statements. We just wanted to pray for peace. When we verbalized it, everybody said, 'Oh, yeah, this is what we should do; let's pray the Rosary for peace and be a prayerful presence.'"

Night of Peace for Ferguson

The Life Teen group already had been planned for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish before the Brown incident, but plans for the Night of Prayer came after. Lead minister Stacy Cretors asked her friend Ike Ndolo, a Columbia, Mo., native, if he would play for, and pray with, the group. It took him about two seconds to climb on board.

"We walk with our neighbor, we eat with our neighbor, we weep with our neighbor," Ndolo said in remarks between songs. "There's a friend who has lost someone -- we weep with them. We walk with them. This shows mercy. Our heart should be what God's heart wants. God's heart longs for his people, He longs for peace, He longs for justice, He longs for mercy.

"We pray for justice in order for there to be peace. We weep with those who weep. We laugh with those who laugh. We love our neighbor as ourselves."

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