Parishes, schools answer pope’s call to pray for peace

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Parishes, schools answer pope’s call to pray for peace

Students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy, 720 W. Belmont Ave., answered Pope Francis’ Global Plea for World Day of Fasting, Penance and Prayer for Peace with a prayer service at their school on Oct. 27, 2023. Cardinal Cupich asked that all parishes and worship sites in the Archdiocese of Chicago dedicate their Friday services as Masses for the restoration of peace and justice in this time of war and civil disturbances. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Principal Shane Staszcuk gives an introduction to students at the beginning of the service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy, 720 W. Belmont Ave., on Oct. 27, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Evan Skaloud examines the olives on the branch. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A students holds the program and an olive branch, which is a biblical symbol of peace, before the start of the prayer service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Flanked by trees, Sam Moss gives a reading during the prayer service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Gabriel Mars, Kostantinos Monogios and Charlie Balster join their classmates in prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father John McGivern, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, gives a reflection to students. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students stand during the service holding the olive branches. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students in the choir sing during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Miko Woodfork prays with her classmates. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student sings the closing song. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Catholics at parishes and schools across the Archdiocese of Chicago observed Oct. 27 as a day of prayer and fasting for peace, heeding Pope Francis’ call “for all those who have at heart the cause of peace in the world” to join him in light of the conflict in the Middle East.

“I know about war, from people who were in it,” said Father Joseph Mulcrone, whose father and uncles served in World War II and whose brother and cousins served in Vietnam. “They all said the same thing: It’s useless. It has no meaning except suffering and death. … The pope has been absolutely consistent in speaking about how war is useless and reminding us how the vast majority of victims of war are not soldiers. The vast majority of victims of war are women and children.”

The situation in the Middle East flared up when militants from Hamas entered into Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, brutally killing at least 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages, with many atrocities streamed online. Israel has responded by blockading Gaza, internally displacing more than half its 2.4 million residents and bombing the densely populated area, killing more than 8,000 people, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza on Oct. 29.

Mulcrone, director of the Catholic Office for the Deaf,  celebrated the morning English-language Mass at St. Francis Borgia Parish, 8033 W. Addison St. The parish’s adoration chapel was open all day, and pastor Father Marek Smolka celebrated Mass in Polish in the evening, followed by the rosary.

Smolka said he had planned to be on pilgrimage in the Holy Land the week of Oct. 27, but the trip was cancelled. He has heard parishioners, especially older people who remember war in Europe, talking about the conflict in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine.

“People are praying about and thinking about it,” he said. “People are asking, ‘What’s next?’”

Shane Staszcuk, principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy, 720 W. Belmont Ave., said his students are also concerned and asking questions. The school held a prayer service for second through eighth graders before dismissal Oct. 27.

“There’s so much death and destruction going on in such an important place in the world,” Staszcuk said, adding that students have been touched by images of children who have been hurt. “It’s very challenging for them to understand and it’s such a complicated situation.”

Father Timothy Fairman, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Palatine, acknowledged that the situation is complicated even for adults.

“Even though it began with terrorist action, as it unfolds, people are becoming aware of the complicated relationships in the Middle East and how we need to pray for everybody,” he said. “It’s scary and it’s difficult and it’s complicated. There’s so many parts of that. And it’s a reminder of the war going on in Ukraine. There’s a temptation to think that it’s no longer a concern or drawing our attention.”

Father Michael Trail, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, 5472 S. Kimbark Ave., said many parishioners are very concerned about the violence. Located near Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, the parish has many regular worshippers who have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

“We’re a global church and we’re united as one body of Christ,” Trail said. “St. Paul says that when part of the body suffers, we all suffer. When there’s suffering in the world anywhere, we all suffer.”

St. Thomas the Apostle held a rosary service on Oct. 17 at the global invitation of Cardinal Pierbatista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines also held an outdoor rosary for peace on Oct. 21.

Father William Corcoran, pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton in Orland Hills, devoted the morning Mass on Oct. 27 to praying for peace because, he said, people around the world are affected by violence.

Parishioners who have family members in the military are especially worried that the conflict will spread, but no one is untouched, he said. Praying for peace in the Middle East and in Ukraine can inspire people to work harder for peace where they live.

“They’re doing something important” in praying for peace, Corcoran said. “They’re opening themselves to be peacemaker in their own situation.”

Father Steven Lanza, pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Winnetka, said his parishioners have been talking about the conflict in the Middle East, and the parish devoted the Oct. 27 morning Mass to praying for peace.

 “It’s complicated. It’s horrible,” he said. “The first thing we can do is pray. And maybe that is the only thing we can do right now.”


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