A year later, faith shines in Ferguson

Weston Kenney

Appropriately, the final Faith in Ferguson prayer service ended with a procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to its grotto in honor of the parish namesake, Our Lady of Guadalupe — otherwise known as Mary, mother of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.

Carrying a candle flickering in the wind, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson led the procession of about 300 souls, also carrying candles, shortly after closing his reflection with a request of the Blessed Virgin.

"May we ask the blessed Mother who said, 'My whole being proclaims the greatness of the Lord,' to intercede for us and for Ferguson, the greater St. Louis area, our state of Missouri and our nation," he said, an apropos sentiment considering the day looming.

Sunday, Aug. 9, marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, which unleashed the torrent of racial tension lurking just below the surface not only in Ferguson but in the region and the country.

A slogan of protesters last year, "No peace, no justice," hearkens to what Blessed Paul VI said more than 40 years ago for the 1973 World Day of Peace: "If you want peace, work for justice." Peace and justice have been a theme for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in the past year.

There have been two Masses for Peace and Justice, with another that was scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. At the first Peace and Justice Mass, 11 days after Brown's death, Archbishop Carlson established the Peace and Justice Commission, whose members were to be commissioned at the Mass Aug. 9.

In his "Faith in Ferguson" reflection Aug. 5, Archbishop Carlson repeated the words of the pope from 1973, saying: "There are situations that 'breed an ever-growing amount of injured prestige, of unrelenting desire for revenge and of endemic and organized disorder. They are not something that can be ignored, as if they will solve themselves with time, because their poison seeps into souls, corroding humanitarian ideologies, becoming contagious and transmitting itself to the youngest generation and carrying with it a fatal inherited commitment to revenge.'"

The archbishop's reading from Isaiah 58:6-12, 11 offered the solution: "Releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed; ... sharing your bread with the hungry; sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed."

Archbishop Carlson expressed thanks for the work of Catholic Charities as well as the parishes and schools of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Our Lady of Guadalupe, which were active in Ferguson long before the strife last year. He also thanked "so many gathered here who fed and clothed and built and cared for — and so much more — those who dared to change their own way of thinking and loving — and institutional change as well."

But work remains. The Church's commitment to not only Ferguson but elsewhere won't end with the one-year anniversary; it'll continue into the future, as long as anyone in the universal Church is suffering.

"We renew our commitment to seek meaningful change and healing and an understanding of the pain of others, our brothers and sisters in Christ," Archbishop Carlson said. "We must continue to work for a better and more holy community — founded on a respect for each other, respect for life and a shared responsibility for the common good."

For many, the language of Jesus seems "strange in a world where violence often triumphs, but like the first disciples, we need to leave our ordinary way of doing things behind and follow Jesus — a journey that is never easy," Archbishop Carlson said.

He identified six ways in which members of the universal Church are suffering, not just in Ferguson but in the world at large:

• "Today, too many people, mostly children, suffer from poverty."

• "Government assistance often falls short of covering basic needs."

• "Many people work hard and are still not making it."

• "Youth living in poverty need access to quality education."

• "All of us need a deeper understanding of poverty and the barriers it presents."

• "We now know that the old way of doing things no longer works."

The archbishop called for a "new model ... based on dialogue and getting to know each other, and then looking at the laws that govern us, a fresh outlook on work and the opportunities that exist, the opportunity for a quality education as a pathway out of poverty, sensitivity to the daily challenges we all face, the good of the family, and true freedom of speech and religion."

Finally, Archbishop Carlson closed the reflection by asking for the intercession of Mary, lit his personal candle after a litany and led the procession to a most appropriate place, her grotto — Our Lady of Guadalupe. The service concluded with participants praying an Our Father, the Mary, Undoer of Knots prayer and a sign of peace.

Nearby, as traffic rolled by on South Ferguson Road, the ribbons, signifying hope and acceptance, placed on a fence by the school's children last year waved in the wind.

Ferguson: One year later

Faith in Ferguson • Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, 4:30 p.m., Aug. 5, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 1115 South Florissant Road, Ferguson 63121

Mass for Peace & Justice • Archbishop Carlson,
Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice, Peace and Justice Commission, 10 a.m.,
Aug. 9, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Boulevard, St.
Louis 63108

Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Anniversary • Father
John O'Brien, Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND, 1 p.m., Aug. 9, Our Lady of
Guadalupe Grotto, 1115 South Florissant Road, Ferguson 63121 (in church
in the event of rain)

United Prayer for Peace • Sister Antona Ebo, FSM, 3 p.m., Aug. 9, Pallottine Renewal Center, 15270 Old Halls Ferry Road, Florissant 63034

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