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    HRH Taskforce Day of Prayer

    April 10, 2019
    By: Helen Wolf, Executive Director, Campus Ministries, Ph.D.

    The Taskforce on Healing, Reconciliation, and Hope invited the University community to a day of prayer on April 3. The HRH Taskforce was established by Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., University president, this past October in response to the release of grand jury proceedings last August detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations.

    This day of prayer provided our University community the opportunity to pray for and with others. A fire burned during the course of the day on Dionne Green, around which students, faculty and staff were invited to pray anytime for any amount of time. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we often read about the people of God offering their prayers to God through fire and sacrifice. Fire also has a tradition of being a vehicle for purification. So participants had the opportunity to offer prayers for survivors, for purification of the Church, and for change. Those who stopped by were invited to write a prayer on a stick of wood which was then add to the fire. The community’s prayers then rose up to God in the smoke and ashes of the fire.

    There were also three formal opportunities for communal prayer: at the beginning of the day at 8:30 a.m. when the fire was lit, at the end of the day at 4:15 p.m. when the fire was extinguished, and at lunchtime when our communal prayer was followed by a simple, shared meal of soup and bread.

    Following is an excerpt of our closing prayer, which sums up our day of prayer seeking reconciliation and healing, but also remembering to hold onto the hope to which our faith calls each of us: “This fire helped us pray for the healing and wholeness of our Church. In many ways, it was a purifying light for us. But at the same time, it was a reminder of the kind of destructiveness that fire brings. In the wake of a fire, there is nothing but ash and burnt ambers. Fire always leaves a scar. The paradox of the fire is not unlike the mystery of the cross. It, too, is a paradox of sin and hope, of brokenness and wholeness, of suffering and salvation. As we sat in the ashes with survivors of this conflagration in the Church, we remember that the resurrected Jesus carried the scars of his crucifixion. And so we know that this scandal is a cross that we must continue to carry in solidarity with our abused and scarred brothers and sisters. We lament our Church’s inability to be a light. We lament our inability to build a world that resembles the kingdom of God. We lament the ways which our leadership, and yes, even the whole Church itself, has doubted the existence of this darkness in our midst. Yet as we lament all of this, we know through faith that there is still a hope. There is still a light.” 

    The Day of Prayer was planned and organized by Steven Browning ‘18, Amy Hoegen, Fred Mercadante, Fr. Patrick Rogers, Julie Schumacher Cohen and Dr. Helen Wolf.

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