Women religious hold monthly vigils to pray for homicide victims

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Women religious hold monthly vigils to pray for homicide victims

Sisters from several religious communities host and participate in the Chicago Homicide Vigil on July 30, 2022 at 600 E. 40th St. where Isiah Mccullough IV, 14, died by gun violence on June 30, 2022. Since 2018, the women religious have gathered the last Saturday of each month at a site where someone died by gun violence in an effort to promote and pray for peace in the city. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister of St Joseph Carol Crepeau, Mercy Sister Joy Clough and School Sister of Notre Dame Maureen Clancy listen as names are read off of those killed by gun violence in Chicago in July. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A book of remembrance for Isiah Mccullough IV, 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Right, LaTricia Morgan, Family Forward program director at PBMR comforts Stormy Briggs, sister of Isiah Mccullough IV. Patricia Neal, his grandmother, speaks. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister of the Precious Blood Donna Liette gives instructions to participants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister of St Joseph Carol Crepeau hands Mercy Sister Pat Murphy a microphone to read the names of those killed by gun violence in Chicago during July. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
School Sister of Notre Dame Maureen Clancy speaks during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The women religious pray during the vigil. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The last Saturday of every month, a group of sisters from various religious communities gather at the site of a recent homicide to pray for peace and healing.

On July 30, they gathered at 600 E. 40th St., where Isiah Mccullough IV, 14, was killed on June 30. His grandmother, Patricia Neal, participated along with his sister, Stormy Briggs.

The Homicide Prayer Vigils began in 2018 with the help of Sister of the Precious Blood Donna Liette, the Family Forward program coordinator at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), 5114 S. Elizabeth St. The ministry helps those affected by violence in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Sister Donna participated in similar homicide vigils with her Precious Blood community in Dayton, Ohio, and saw a need for them in Chicago.

Laypeople and ordained ministers frequently join the women in person and others join via Zoom.

During the prayer vigil, participants read the names and ages of all those killed by gun violence that month.

“Unfortunately, we can’t also read the names of all those who have been harmed,” said Sister Donna. “I’m beginning to think that’s almost worse, because I work with the mothers who’ve lost children to gun violence and when I see all of those who are paralyzed and traumatized and all those who are now mentally harmed that they can’t even work anymore because of the shootings. I feel sad because I’ve worked here 12 years and it seems like the violence is only worse.”

She and Precious Blood Father David Kelly choose a site for the vigil each month. They often have some connection to the person or family of the person killed, Sister Donna said.

“I usually every month know one or two of the families,” she said.

The vigils have an impact on the wider community, she added.

“It brings an awareness to those who gather of the tremendous amount of violence that’s in our city. Sometimes we are at a public place and even people that pass by say, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’ And then we try to invite them to join us,” Sister Donna said.

During the vigil, Neal shared brief memories of her grandson.

“He was a really, really loving kid that stayed on the honor roll. He loved to play his sports, his football. He loved to dress up in the latest fashions. He was just an all-around good, loving kid,” said Neal during the vigil.

She said that she didn’t attend her grandson’s funeral because she didn’t want to see him lying in the casket.

“I just remember the last day he walked out my door and said, ‘I’ll see you later, Grandma.’ And I was like, ‘I love you. Be careful.’ So that’s the only reminder that I want to have of him,” Neal said.

Bob Gaggiano from St. James Parish, 2907 S. Wabash Ave., regularly attends the vigils.

“I think violence in Chicago is really a problem, and I find that this is a way that I can contribute, in some small way, to pray for those victims, to pray for the people that commit violence that their hearts can be turned,” Gaggiano said.

The vigils also strengthen anti-violence efforts of other groups, he said.

“It binds the people here together and gives us inspiration to try and go out and find new ways to help people. We network here a little bit and find out what some of the other people are doing on violence prevention,” he said.

School Sister of Notre Dame Maureen Clancy has attended the vigils since close to the beginning.

“My heart just breaks listening to the news,” Sister Maureen said. “I just cannot get over the amount of shooting and killing within our city. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe in grace, but I also think we all have to be a visible presence and join in our prayer so we send out that grace to everybody.”

Laws also have to change, she added.

“There is no way we need a gun that will decapitate the person who is shot,” she said.


  • women religious
  • anti-violence

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