On a cool summer evening, with a heavy police presence, more than 200 black priests, deacons, women religious and seminarians joined community members for a march for nonviolence in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. The July 29 march was part of a four-day gathering of the Joint Conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters’ Conference and the National Black Catholic Seminarians’ Association along with the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons. They marched from St. Bernard Hospital, on 64th Street and Stewart, to nearby St. Benedict the African-East Parish, 340 W. 66th St., where Cardinal George met them for a prayer service and Mass. Even though the march was planned a year ago, the ongoing gun violence in the city made it timely, organizers said. The joint conference comes together annually and usually schedules some sort of public witness during their gathering. “Because of the violence in Chicago, we decided last year that we wanted to do something outside of the church so that people could see that we could come out in the community and march for a peaceful day to support our sisters and brothers — both Catholic and non-Catholic — who are trying to bring a peaceful end to the violence here, in particular, in Chicago, but which is endemic across the country,” said Josephite Father Anthony Bozeman, president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. St. Mary of Namur Sister Roberta Fulton, president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, said that the news often reports about the violence in Chicago so the march was a way to stand up for peace. “We wanted to be able to say to the community, ‘It isn’t always about violence, but we are working for peace and justice,’” Sister Fulton said. Following the march, the group gathered in front of the church for a short prayer service where youth read off the names of the 216 people who have lost their lives to gun violence in the City of Chicago so far this year. Cardinal George joined them for a blessing at the end of the service. Participants went inside the church afterward for a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry. During the homily, newly ordained Father Dwayne Davis from the Diocese of Brooklyn asked the congregation to consider what their legacy will be for the next 45 years of the conference. This year mark’s the 45th anniversary of the joint conference. “We must continue to be role models within our black community,” Davis said. They must also continue to strive for sainthood themselves and help others strive for sainthood, he said. In remarks at the end of the Mass, Cardinal George recalled how in the past few months he has “rekindled” friendships with several black Protestant pastors in the area and their knowledge of Scripture “humbled” him in their willingness to speak out for what God says is right and wrong in his word. “It’s hard to take those positions in a civilization that is probably unravelled at times and losing its bearings, but, all the more, can we take them, because we get strength from one another and because we rely on the grace of Jesus Christ,” he said. He also thanked those who have promoted the cause of Father Augustus Tolton, who is the first identified black priest in the United States. Born the son of slaves in Missouri, he studied for the priesthood in Rome because no American seminary would accept him. Sent to the Diocese of Quincy in southern Illinois, he later came to Chicago to start a parish for black Catholics. He was only 43 years old at the time of his death.