Moms, ministers spread message of peace on West Side

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Monday, June 8, 2020

Moms, ministers spread message of peace on West Side

Mothers and clergy from St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish (Little Village), St. Agatha Parish (North Lawndale) and other community organizations marched for peace on June 5 ,2020. Mothers led two groups starting from each parish to meet at 2100 S. Lawndale in front of a mural of César Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Donald Nevins, pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish, leads an opening prayer at the start of the march from the church. A second group marched from St. Agatha Parish. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mothers walk in the march from St. Agnes of Bohemia carrying white carnations and signs. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The women carried signs with messages like "Moms for Peace." (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Women carried signs in both English and Spanish during the march. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Clergy from the community joined the mothers in marching. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Parish, speaks to organizers upon his parish group's arrival to the mural site. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The image of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is seen on the mural above the marchers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A participant in the rally holds a sign with a quote from George Floyd. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mothers stand in front of the mural of King and Chavez. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants wore masks to protect them from COVID-19 during the march and rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants display their messages in both English and Spanish. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Heather Johnson from St. Agatha Parish speaks during the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dominican Father Brendan Curran from the Resurrection Project joins participants at the site. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman from the group Youth Opposed to Violence Everywhere holds a sign during the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A participant holds bracelets for marchers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Women cheer in support of speaker comments. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

With a mural depicting peace activists Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez on the building behind them, a group of about 60 Latino and African American mothers and ministers from Little Village and Lawndale called for justice and peace at a rally at 2100 S. Lawndale Ave. on June 5.

The peaceful event was organized by St. Agatha Parish in Lawndale and St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish in Little Village and included other community organizations such as the Resurrection Project and Padre Angeles. Lawndale is a predominantly African American neighborhood and Little Village is predominantly Latino. The mothers and pastors from the two communities came together in a sign of racial unity.

Marches began at both parishes and met in the middle at the mural. Participants carried white carnations and signs that read “Moms for Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop the Violence.”

In an opening prayer for the march beginning in Little Village, Father Donald Nevins, pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia, reminded participants that Jesus commanded all of us to “love one another as I have loved you.”

“If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to put it into action,” Nevins said.

He and Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha, initially thought of organizing a peace march of priests but then thought of the message mothers could bring to the wider community.

“We thought, ‘You know, mothers have a lot to say to their children about what’s going on and they need a forum to do that,’” Nevins said.

Patricia Gonzales, a parishioner from St. Agnes of Bohemia, attended the march with her daughter, her mother and her niece’s daughter. She said they came to show unity between the communities.

“We were scared,” Gonzales said of the looting and violence in her neighborhood following the death of George Floyd. “We were really scared. We were doing rosaries at our house and everything.”

They stayed home and locked their doors, she said, but came out to the march in the hope of a better future, especially for her niece’s daughter, who is 1½ and biracial, she said.

During remarks at the rally, St. Agatha parishioner Heather Johnson urged justice and change.

“We want unity in our community. There is no black and brown against each other. We don’t want that. We want peace,” she said. “We want to bring everybody together to make this a whole. We’re in this together.”

Johnson said she’s a mother of seven children, has three grandchildren and volunteers in the community to keep all children safe.

“If you’re looking for trouble, turn the other direction because this is not what you want,” she said. “We’re fighting for our future. Our children are here. We’re fighting for them.”

Johnson also urged those listening to become part of the solution and to build a better future for their children.

Dolores Castañeda of Padre Angeles, a grassroots violence-prevention group based at St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish, said the march and rally promoted common bonds between people living in Little Village and Lawndale.

“I know Chicago is very segregated, but we’re not divided — the Latino and African American community. I think this moment united us,” she said.

Many of the mothers participating that day have lost children to violence. Castañeda’s daughter survived being shot.

“I really don’t want to see the segregation,” she said. “We’re neighbors, but we don’t communicate. I think it’s time to establish a culture to work together. Maybe this situation is going to bring more of us together.”

It’s a dream of Castañeda’s to see the Latino and African American communities come together for peace.

“It’s a moment to unite, to share culture and respect, to love everyone,” she said. “God made different colors. It doesn’t matter what skin color you are. The most important thing is the love you provide to your neighbor.”


  • racism
  • anti-violence

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