Parish launches Peace of Christ campaign to address violence

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

A billboard as seen on the Stevenson Expressway near Damen Avenue on Jan. 31, 2022. The billboard is part of a new parish-wide effort at St. Benedict the African in Englewood to embrace the Gospel message of peace to prevent violence at all levels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When a parishioner was randomly shot in the middle of a weekday at a gas station, it rocked the members of St. Benedict the African Parish in Englewood.

“There was a young parishioner here in his 30s and he was shot,” said Father David Jones, pastor. “That was shocking to everyone. It was just that moment where you realize that you deal with violence differently when it is you compared to when you have the luxury to say, ‘Well, that’s them.’”

The young man was not involved in anything criminal. It was a senseless act of violence, Jones said, which made it more difficult to understand.

“There was just nothing that would have prepared anyone for this craziness. That’s what made us want to do something different and do something more,” he said.

The young man survived, and a conversation began between parishioners and priests about how to respond. The idea developed to address the issue of violence with a campaign rooted in Luke 23:34, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

The first act of the campaign was to pay for an ad on a digital billboard on the outbound Stevenson Expressway near Damen Avenue with the message, “Violence is the work of the Devil. Stop the sin. Start the peace. St. Benedict the African.”

“We wanted something big, something bold,” Jones said of the billboard.

The Peace of Christ campaign is organic and something the parish is still fleshing out, but it promises to be transformative for the parish and the wider community, he said

Jones is putting together a framework to help direct conversation among parishioners, and the parish plans to rev up the campaign during Lent. The parish will also invite its sharing parishes to be a part of the campaign.

Because violence never ends, this needs to be an ongoing effort to promote the peace of Christ always, Jones said.

“It’s awareness of the peace of Christ, but also an awareness of the violence in the ways we walk past it all the time,” Jones said. “For example, if there are five levels of violence, we’re talking about things at level 5. It would be more consistent and more productive and more proactive if we talked about levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 because those are preventative. If you can address it at those levels, you don’t get to gun violence.”

The parish wants the campaign to be church- and Scripture-based.

“It really comes from our liturgical experience of wanting to more deeply relate to the peace of Christ and to more intentionally make that something that we do together as church, the sharing of that peace,” Jones said. “In that it is my belief that that is what the church is called to do in response to violence.”

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  • anti-violence
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