Deacons hold 10th sunrise service praying for an end to violence

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Deacons hold 10th sunrise service praying for an end to violence

The Black Catholic Deacons of Chicago, in partnership with priests, deacons and clergy of the Archdiocese of Chicago, hosted the 10th Annual Sunrise Prayer Service for Nonviolence and Peace on Sept. 12, 2020, in the parking lot of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 9015 S. Harper Ave. Due to COVID-19, the service moved from the lakefront to the church parking lot as a drive-in ceremony where worshipers gathered to pray for peace and the healing of families, schools and communities. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The deacons stand in prayer at the start of the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cantors lead participants in song. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A man sits and prays during the service. Participants could take part in their cars or in chairs separated six feet apart for social distancing. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A liturgical dancer performs during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
With a mural behind them, deacons listen to the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Because of COVID-19, the service moved from the lakefront to the parking lot of St. Katharine Drexel Church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Leroy Gill delivers the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People participate in the service from their cars. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

For the last 10 years, the Black deacons of Chicago have led sunrise services near around the start of the school year to pray for an end to gun violence in the city. They gathered again and continued praying on Sept. 12, this time not on Oakwood Beach but in the parking lot of St. Katharine Drexel Church, 9015 S. Harper Ave., because of social distancing. 

People took part in the service from their cars or in chairs spaced apart for safety.

“Since we began this ministry, 5,330 people have been shot and killed. There have been over 29,891 shootings, plus whatever happened last night,” Deacon Leroy Gill told the gathering in his homily. “It is serious business what’s going on, and the need for us to be out here early in the morning praising God.”

As of Sept. 12, 41 young people under 17 had been killed by gun violence in Chicago in 2020.

He said many people may have lost their faith and are questioning God’s love during this time.

“A lot of people are saying ‘I’m tired of praying that this won’t happen again when I know that it will,’” Gill said. “But we are here today to tell you that the Black deacons of Chicago are no ways tired. We are no ways tired because there is too much at stake.”

He went on to petition the Lord for his intercession saying, as people of faith, we trust that the Lord hears our prayers and is working among us. And as people of faith, he said, we continue to work to end the violence and when we see something, we say something or do something.

“It’s easy to feel that God is ignoring our prayer. I don’t know about you, but I know God is not ignoring my prayers,” Gill said. “I know that God hears our prayers and I know that my God will heal the land.”

God is faithful and sees the evil going on in the world and on the streets of Chicago, Gill said.

“God cares about our situation. Even when we cannot see what God is doing, we must maintain our trust because God is taking action. And I know it is on the way,” he said.

People from several parishes in the archdiocese and beyond attended the service. Will Peterson drove in that morning from South Bend, Indiana. He is founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, which offers pilgrimage experiences around the United States. He is hoping to hold a social justice pilgrimage in Chicago.

“I’m here in solidarity with the church and striving toward racial justice and ending violence in the local community and throughout the United States,” he said. “It’s important for our faith to be here.”

Belinda Lane and Lynn Jones are parishioners at St. Katherine Drexel and participated in the service from their car in the parking lot. They said while they haven’t been back to Mass yet because they are older and are concerned about COVID-19, they wanted to come out and support the deacons.

They attended previous services the deacons have held on the lakefront and see the importance of public expressions of faith like the sunrise service, which was held right next to the busy thoroughfare Stoney Island Avenue.

“We’re visible. When people see you doing better, maybe it will encourage them to be better,” Jones said. “And we’re praying as a group also. There’s power in prayer always.”

“I like to lead by example,” Lane said. “Hopefully with this being an open area that it is, somebody may be passing by and wonder what’s going on over here. They may not necessarily stop but may say, ‘OK, I could get into something like that.’”

It all goes back to prayer, Jones said.

“Why is this craziness going on?” she said. “Who knows. But we do have prayer and I know prayer works, so we’re going to keep on praying until it gets better.”


  • deacons
  • anti-violence

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