Belmont Cragin parishes unite to demand peace, justice

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Thursday, September 2, 2021

Belmont Cragin parishes unite to demand peace, justice

The three parishes in Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood hosted a peace walk Aug. 28, 2021 to pray for peace in their community and to call for justice for those killed. The procession began at St. John Bosco Church, 2250 N. McVicker Ave., processed to St. James the Apostle Church, 5730 W. Fullerton Ave., and ended at St. Genevieve Church, which is part of Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Parish, 4835 W. Atlgeld St. More than 80 people participated in the walk during which they prayed the rosary and stopped at sites where people were killed in their community. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Sergio Riva, pastor of Sts. Genevieve Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, addresses walk participants at the start outside of St. John Bosco Church. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
Participants hold their signs with messages calling for peace and justice near the start of the walk. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
Melissa McGlynn speaks to the crowd about someone who lost their life to violence. At each stop, participants remembered someone who died by violence in their community, often at the location, and then prayed a decade of the rosary. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
Participants process toward Fullerton Avenue and chant messages of peace and calls for justice. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
Members of Parents for Peace and Justice carry a banner at the head of the procession. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
Two members of the Christ for Life biker group attended the walk. One member lost a family member to gun violence. (Alejandro Castillo/Chicago Catholic)
The procession makes its way up W. Atlgeld St. to St. Genevieve church for the final stop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Carrying handmade signs, people make their way into the church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Some participants wear T-shirts with the image of their deceased loved ones on the front. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
More than 80 people attended the walk on a day when the temperature reached high 90s and saw high humidity. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants process into the church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Riva leads the recitation of the rosary. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman prays before the altar. Riva had participants place their signs in front of the altar, which stayed there for all weekend Masses. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Melissa McGlynn prays during the rosary. McGlynn organized the walk with Father Riva. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Women pray during the final decade of the rosary. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman prays during the final service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On the sweltering afternoon of Aug. 28, with temperatures in the 90s with high humidity, more than 80 parishioners from St. John Bosco, St. James the Apostle and Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr parishes processed through the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, stopping to pray at locations where people were killed by gun violence.

The peace walk, which was organized in just under two weeks after increased violence in the neighborhood, began at St. John Bosco Church, 2250 N. McVicker Ave., and ended at St. Genevieve Church, 4835 W. Altgeld St. Participants also stopped to pray in front of St. James and St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr churches.

During the walk, participants prayed the rosary, carried signs in English and Spanish with messages of peace and chanted: “We want justice. We want peace. We want justice in our streets.” At each stop participants remembered someone killed by violence and prayed a decade of the rosary for them and an intention related to how they died.

At St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church, 5352 W. Belden Ave., participants remembered Chicago Police Officer Ella French and Illinois National Guardsman Chrystopher Carvajal, 19, who was shot to death on July 3 in the neighborhood. He had just completed basic training and was home awaiting an assignment.

Carvajal’s family attended the peace walk and wore white T-shirts with a photo of him in his uniform. They also wore buttons with his image.

Brittney Carvajal said it meant a lot to her family that organizers remembered her brother during the walk.

“It means so much since the community has helped us try and get justice for my brother. It just brings us peace,” she said. “Being here and doing this kind of stuff helps us.”

Carvajal said her family is “really religious” and attends Mass together regularly. Chrystopher Carvajal also attended with his family and was an altar server at their home parish, St. Mark. He also shared his faith with others during his basic training.

The idea for the peace walk originated with Father Sergio Riva, pastor of Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr, and volunteer Melissa McGlynn.

Riva said the goal of the day was to pray for peace and for the strength to work for peace and justice in the community.

“The other thing was just to shine the light on the two problems of violence,” which are injustice and declining values, he said. “Sometimes there are gangs that are three generations. Grandparents, parents and kids, so they are learning all of these things at home. They are not learning to respect life. They learn that God is money or power.”

The parish will continue to promote peace, Riva said, because the violence hits close to home.

“The last two shootings happened just two blocks from here. And then two months ago, we had Chrys Carvajal who got killed,” he said.

The violence even affected how many people attended the walk.

“It was really hot today, so many people didn’t show up because of that, but there were many others who said, ‘We are afraid.’ They live on a block with members of gangs and they don’t want to be seen at the march,” Riva said.

McGlynn manages the parish food pantry and has long volunteered in catechesis and youth ministry at the parish. Over the years, young people have shared that they feel abandoned by their schools and abandoned by their families and communities and that people are not hearing them, she said.

“I think that translates into violence and finding outlets in damaging and harmful ways like gangs,” McGlynn said.

Responding to recent violence by taking to the streets to promote a message of peace and justice is a natural Catholic response, she said.

“Being Catholic for me is really about taking Jesus out of the church and into the streets because that’s where Jesus did his best work,” she said. “I just think being present, being visible, literally walking up and down [Fullerton Avenue] the most busy street in our neighborhood and in our ZIP code, I think was the most powerful way to bring Jesus and the message of non-violence to the community.”

Riva likened violence to a tumor.

“It doesn’t matter if your brain has a tumor or if your lung has a tumor, your whole body is sick. You’re in trouble,” he said. “That’s what’s happening in the city. The tumor might be here but the people who live along the lakeshore are being affected, people who live on the North Side are going to be affected by the violence here.”


  • parishes
  • anti-violence

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