September 16, 2016

Prayer must be at heart of uniting communities, priest says

Deacon Kerry Blandford, parish life coordinator of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, left, proclaims the Gospel during a Sept. 9 prayer service in the parish’s church. Also pictured is Father Douglas Hunter, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish and chaplain coordinator at Bishop Chatard High School, both in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Deacon Kerry Blandford, parish life coordinator of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, left, proclaims the Gospel during a Sept. 9 prayer service in the parish’s church. Also pictured is Father Douglas Hunter, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish and chaplain coordinator at Bishop Chatard High School, both in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

The gathering included Scripture, music, a recitation of a Litany of Saints, intercessions, and a litany for healing.

Father Douglas Hunter, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish and chaplain coordinator at Bishop Chatard High School, both in Indianapolis, delivered a homily.

But “a call to prayer and action for peace and unity” was at the heart of the message approximately 50 people heard on Sept. 9 at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Indianapolis.

The event was held in conjunction with the nationwide celebration of a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in July to raise awareness of violence and racism within communities and empower people to do the work needed to restore racial harmony.

As a former law enforcement officer at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, Father Hunter has witnessed firsthand the challenges many young people face today.

“We as a loving, Christian community, can provide the foundation of support for them,” he said in his homily.

Our faith in Scripture and the sacraments is not meant to be compartmentalized, Father Hunter continued.

“God did not give us the Eucharist and his word for ourselves,” he noted. “He gave it for everyone.

“We are the vessels that go out and make a difference within the world.”

Parents must stop placing the responsibility of their children on other people, and take that responsibility back on themselves, Father Hunter said.

Many children, he added, are looking for adults to take the lead in helping nurture their lives of faith.

“To our young people, you can invite them back. All they really want is an invitation,” he said.

When it comes to faith, “hold them accountable. Hold yourselves accountable,” Father Hunter said. “I hold myself accountable in prayer each and every single day, and I hope all of you do, too.

“But I cannot pray for the world by myself. We are a Christian community. We’ve got to pray together. No matter what is taking place in our lives, we have got to pray.”

The day chosen for nationwide prayer was the feast of St. Peter Claver, the Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary who ministered to slaves for 40 years in Colombia and became the patron saint of slaves and ministry to African-Americans. He is said to have personally baptized about 300,000 slaves.

Pearlette Springer, coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry in the archdiocese, said Father Hunter’s message was very relevant to our call as disciples of Christ.

“I like the way he ended it, by saying, ‘Do not be afraid, go out and proclaim the Good News,’ because that is what we are called to do,” she said.

Deacon Michael Braun, director of the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries in the archdiocese, said opportunities like this can serve as a bond for our diverse Church family.

“I think prayer services like this are important for building unity,” he said. “We’ve been a people of distance and separation for far too long. We have to do the hard work of overcoming our fear and ignorance, and start beginning to come together. This is a good way to do that.”

St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Gail Trippett, who serves as pastoral associate at Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, proclaimed the first reading at the prayer service.

She said she believes that the Church and the example of its saints have a lot to offer in terms of rooting us and grounding us in our faith.

“Sometimes, we get so busy in life that we forget that some of the easiest ways are to come together in prayer, to keep peace in our hearts, to radiate it when we leave,” Sister Gail said. “That does so much good.

“As Father Doug was saying, it was that love and that peace that he got from his family that gave him another option, and we need to continue to be that option today for the children of today.”

Children can be affected by so many negative influences—on TV, in music, and through the violence they see around them, Sister Gail noted.

“We’ve got to be the countercultural piece, and Church and prayer is where you get that.” †

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