In response to Pope Francis’s call to bring the church to the streets and to live with “the smell the sheep”, and in an effort to counteract the high rate of crime and violence in New Orleans, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, sponsors a Peace Prayer Walk on the last Tuesday of each month. These walks are always held in neighborhoods where violence is common and in many cases where there are abandoned lots and derelict houses as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
The March 31st walk took place in the neighborhood of Corpus Christi (now Corpus Christi-Epiphany Church). The warm, sunny evening was much appreciated after months of walking with flashlights and trying not to fall on pavements still not repaired almost ten years after the hurricane.
We assembled on the steps of Corpus Christi. After the welcome and prayer, a sobering and frightening list of crimes committed this week within a one mile radius of the church was read. Then, 44 strong, we set off singing songs of peace. As is our usual practice we stopped on corners and at various other points to pray for the safety of the people of the neighborhood and an end to criminal activity. Two of our stops were particularly poignant. The first was the local library which has been boarded up since Hurricane Katrina and is completely vandalized. Here we prayed for the neighborhood children deprived of a place to read good books and use computers and for the local people who must feel left behind as they hear the announcements of branch libraries reopening in other areas.
Even more touching was our stop at Corpus Christi School where we reflected too on Epiphany School and the beacons of light both schools were in the community. Here though, there was a sign of new life and hope. Corpus Christi School is under reconstruction and will open as a community center in June. In the community center local craftsmen and craftswomen will train young men and women in trades. Most of the craftsmen and craftswomen who built the City of New Orleans lived in Epiphany Parish. How fitting it is that they should contribute to rebuilding the community by passing on their skills to the next generation.
Our walk completed, we assembled to reflect on the experience, to share encounters we had with people along the way, and once again to pray for peace in the community. I led the group in a special prayer for the priests, sisters, faculties and staffs that nurtured the faith of the children in Epiphany and Corpus Christi schools over the years and for the alumni who, now spread far and wide, have brought that gift of faith with them and are passing it on to their children and others they encounter wherever they are resettled.
Teresa Rooney chf, Office of Racial Harmony, Archdiocese of New Orleans