Parishioners from St. Bernadette and Queen of Martyrs parishes in Evergreen Park and Christ the King Parish in Chicago joined together Oct. 27 to bring awareness to domestic violence. About 25 people gathered outside St. Bernadette for a candlelight prayer vigil and walk organized by the domestic violence ministries at the three parishes, which are affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Domestic Violence Outreach ministry. “October is domestic violence awareness month, and we wanted to do something simple to raise awareness in our community,” said Char Bermele, who coordinates the domestic violence ministry at St. Bernadette. “We couldn’t do anything last year because of COVID, so this year we decided to do it outside. We decided to walk with our lights to shine a light on this horrible social problem.” Nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, and one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetimes. In Illinois, 41.5% of women and 25.9% of men have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, according to the survey. Participants started outside St. Bernadette with a moment of silence for those who have been killed by domestic violence, followed by prayer led by Queen of Martyrs Deacon Bob Landuyt, for those who “walk under the dark weight of fear of violence in their own homes.” Landuyt also prayed that those who abuse their families have their hearts changed. The group walked around the parish campus and the adjoining OSF-Little Company of Mary Medical Center, stopping to pray in front of the statue of Mary that stands in front of the center. There, St. Bernadette pastor Father Benedykt Pazdan led a prayer calling for respect for all life, including those suffering from abuse in domestic relationships. Pazdan noted that October is also Respect Life month, and domestic violence is a life issue, he said. Events like the prayer walk, as well as bulletin notices and signs in the church, help make people aware that the parish stands ready to help people suffering from domestic violence. “They need to know they can come to us and we can help them find the resources and the professionals that can help them,” Pazdan said. “I know for a lot of people, it takes them a long time to make the decision to leave. They need to know we are here. It’s a problem that has been hidden for so long.” The domestic violence ministry has made a difference, he said. In the past month, two people have approached him for help, including one woman who was living on the streets with a 4-year-old because she no longer felt safe in her home. Pazdan said the parish was able to get her a hotel room for a couple of days until she was able to go to a shelter. Domestic violence happens everywhere, Pazdan said, and parishes everywhere should offer help. “It might not even be someone from the parish,” he said. “Maybe people are more likely to go to another parish, because they are afraid of people knowing they have problems at home.” Bermele said that the three parishes all started their domestic violence outreach ministries about five years ago, and that since then, several parishioners have taken the 40-hour domestic violence advocate training and are putting it to use by volunteering on hotlines and in shelters. Bermele is a nursing instructor at St. Xavier University and teaches what she has learned about domestic violence to students, she said. AJ Querciagrossa, metro region CEO for OSF HealthCare, joined in the walk and OSF-Little Company of Mary was glad to be asked to be part of it. “It’s such a big issue in the community, and as health care providers we work to assist people who are situations of domestic violence,” he said.