Revival inspires St. Moses the Black to put hope in future

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Revival inspires St. Moses the Black to put hope in future

St. Moses the Black Parish, 331 E. 71st St., holds the final evening of a three-day tent revival outside the church on Aug. 31, 2021. The parish is a result of the unification under Renew My Church of Sts. Dorothy, Columbanus and Clotilde churches. The revival, with the theme "I'll respond!" was an effort to renew the parish going forward in Renew My Church. Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt of New Orleans preached the revival. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jennifer Reid, pastoral associate at the parish, welcomes participants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The choir leads the congregation in praise music. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dominican Father Paul Whittington, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, gives a blessing to Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt before he preaches. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman places her hand over her heart during Nutt's homily. The theme for the revival was "I'll respond!" (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants respond during Nutt's preaching. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Wiping away tears, a woman raises her hand in praise. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nutt preaches to the congregation gathered under the tent. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman holds a little girl during the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
With their eyes closed, two women hold their hands up in prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People dance and sing during the praise session at the end of the evening. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On the evening of Aug. 31, anyone passing by St. Moses the Black Parish, 331 E. 71st St., was greeted by rousing praise and worship and lively preaching coming from a large white tent set up on the lawn.

It was the last night of a three-day revival at the newly created parish formed out of the unification of Sts. Columbanus,  Dorothy and Clotilde churches through Renew My Church.

Many people wore white T-shirts bearing the revival theme and donned white masks displaying the parish name. On Aug. 30 and 31, the evenings began with a boxed meal for people to share on the sidewalk in front of the church, providing time for parishioners to socialize and meet new people.

The revival, which had the theme “I’ll respond,” was the first time all three church communities worshipped together, said Father Matthew O’Donnell, pastor.

“The tent revival has been a good opportunity for people to meet each other, to worship together, to pray in one place instead of the three locations that we’ve been at,” he said.

The revival began Aug. 29 with Sunday Mass, at which popular revival leader Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt preached on the theme “Let your heart be in it.”

The second night, the revival moved into the tent with praise and worship bookending the service.

On Aug. 28, the community also celebrated the feast day of its patron, St. Moses the Black, one of the Catholic Church’s desert fathers who lived in Egypt in the fourth century. He is the patron saint of non-violence and a patron saint of Africa, O’Donnell said, and he is meant to guide and inspire the parish’s mission going forward.

“As we dreamed about what our ministries would be in the Greater Grand Crossing and the Chatham communities, and recognizing the amount of violence that continues to affect the Black community in Chicago, Moses the Black is a great patron for us and a great witness for how we can be living our lives of faith,” O’Donnell said.

The revival related to the Renew My Church unification process the churches just went through to inspire hope and excitement for the new community, O’Donnell said.

“On Sunday, Father Maurice preached on ‘Is your heart in it?’ So really challenging the people that used to be a part of those other communities and now St. Moses the Black to really allow their heart to be in this moment to recognize that God is doing something new and each of us has the opportunity to respond to that by allowing our whole self to be in it,” O’Donnell explained.

On the second night, Nutt preached on the theme “Do not be afraid.” Everyone faces storms in life and can be tempted to be afraid or feel alone, O’Donnell said.

“Our revivalist challenged us to not be afraid, to really trust that Jesus is the one that’s with us and that God is already in whatever storms we might have to face in the future,” he said, like a merged parish. “I think that was really part of his message, saying that the storm of going through Renew My Church is probably not something anybody in the three communities wanted to go through, but the reality is that we’re here now and we are this new parish community.”

Parishioners have been through the storm and maybe are still in it somewhat, but God is there with them, O’Donnell said.

On the third night, Nutt’s message was “Better is yet to come.”

“I think that’s been one of the big messages that we’ve had here at St. Moses the Black since July 1 is that God really is doing something new in our midst,” O’Donnell said. “It’s about each of us who are a part of this community making a decision to pay attention to the new and to embrace it the best that we can and to really allow God to work through us.”

He hopes that people took away from the revival the courage to commit to the present moment of the parish and not to worry about the future or to be stuck in the past.

Parishioner Dwayne Jervier said the revival message benefited both the parish and the wider community.

“It’s one thing to be in service and to be a participant of Mass and it’s another thing to actually take what you get from Mass outside of Mass for the rest of the week,” he said. “Hopefully this will be an opportunity for everyone to realize that it’s not even just a matter of sitting in the pews but it’s a matter of outreach.”

Through his preaching, Nutt often boldly challenged attendees to change, and that was OK with Jervier, he said.

“I think for him to be able to be straightforward with his message, the way he delivers it, I think most of the people, or everybody I’ve seen, have been receptive and it’s been energizing as well,” Jervier said.

Zanda Harris called the revival “fantastic.” “I think everybody seems to be ready for a new direction,” she said. “We’ve had a good turnout.”

She is also excited for a new parish initiative to help people get to know one another by providing name tags for parishioners to wear at Masses and other events.

“There’s people that I’ve been going to church with that I don’t know their names. I think that’s another fantastic idea,” Harris said. “Everyone seems to be willing to learn and make the leap of faith.”

Imari Price, 17, agreed. The young parishioner said he enjoyed the revival, especially the music and “the feel of the room.”

“As far as bringing the church together, I think it’s going well, because everybody is here before everything starts, eating and socializing and everything,” Price said. “Then we go in and we pray and worship together.”

To watch the revival sessions, visit



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