Praying for our students to survive the summer

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, June 19, 2011

Praying for our students to survive the summer

Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Parish, 3147 W. Douglas Blvd., blesses Erron Johnson, a student at St. Agatha School, following the service. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Michael Hassan-Murphy, a student at Visitation School, smiles at his mother, Linda Murphy, during the service. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

When a group of 282 Catholic elementary school children were asked on the morning of June 7 to raise their hands if they knew someone who was murdered, dozens of hands went up. That’s a lot of hands for people who have only lived in this world for a dozen or so years.

The students, who live in some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, were gathered for a prayer service at the 65th Street Beach pavilion in Chicago to pray for a peaceful summer break.

The fifth- through seventh-graders came from Visitation School (900 W. Garfield Blvd.), St. Sabina Academy (7801 S. Throop St.), Academy of St. Benedict the African Laflin and Stewart campuses (6020 S. Laflin St. and 6547 S. Stewart Ave.), St. Agatha Catholic Academy (1501 Chicago Road), St. Dorothy School (7740 S. Eberhart Ave.) and Holy Angels School (750 E. 40th St.).

The Black Deacons of Chicago, the Office for Black Catholics and the Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry partnered to put the service together.

During the hour-long service singer Justus from St. Sabina Parish performed and gave his personal testimony. Deacon Leroy Gill from Holy Angels Parish also read from the Gospel and shared a brief homily. Following the service, the priests and deacons present prayed over each child.

Justus told the youth they were gathered there to be “salty.”

“Y’all are the salt of the earth. You’re all going to make this world better,” he said.

Gill echoed this idea in his homily after reading Mt 5:13-16, where Jesus tells the crowd that they are salt of the earth and light of the world.

Salt does two things — preserves and gives flavor, Gill told the students.

“This world, our community, they stink. They are decaying. There’s no flavor,” Gill said. “God is calling you to be salt” and calling them back to their communities to tell people about Jesus.

Linda Murphy attended the prayer service to support her son Michael Hassan- Murphy, 12, who is in the sixth grade at Visitation School.

She said prayer is “really needed” to end violence in the community.

“I’m just so sick and tired of our children losing their lives,” Murphy said, adding that it is the parents who really have to be reached to help change the culture.

Murphy and her son pray every morning and night and Michael said he hopes the prayer service will help keep him and his fellow students safe.

He said most people say they pray but don’t follow up on it.

“Their voices say one thing and their actions say another,” Michael said.