On Good Friday the Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cardinal Cupich, held a march for peace in Chicago’s Southside and called for “all people of good will” to join him. More than 1,500 people attended the march, which started at St. Benedict the African Parish and followed a four-mile route through the neighborhood.
The diverse crowd included residents of the neighborhood as well as people from all over the city and surrounding area. A large number of Chicago priests joined their cardinal on the march, and religious leaders from other Christian churches walked alongside their congregations. Residents waved from apartment windows and front porches as the crowd marched down their streets.
The marchers stopped at various points along the walk to pray the stations of the cross. Cardinal Cupich read the stations and spoke with parents of children who had been murdered. He decried the “environment of hopelessness” that so many young people grow up in and called legislators to enact “sensible gun policy.” He was joined by community leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and local politician Toni Preckwinkle, among others.
At each station speakers from the community read the names and ages of some of the 172 people killed in Chicago since the beginning of the year. Three speakers also shared their stories of life in Englewood. A ten-year-old boy explained that he wanted to grow up to be a basketball player but could not practice because it was too dangerous to go to the park a block from his house. A police officer who grew up in Englewood spoke of sprinting to school each morning as he crossed gang territory and wanting to become a part of change for the community. A mother whose eldest son was murdered told of her younger boy, who tried to kill himself after his brother’s death. She spoke of her own struggles with suicide attempts, then said “No matter what happens, remember that God got us.”
Also at the march was Chicago priest Fr. Mike Pfleger, a pastor of Southside St. Sabina’s Parish who is famous for his efforts against Chicago gun violence. “All those names, they’re not just names. These are babies, real lives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends,” Pfleger told reporters. “I hope [people] realize that we are losing a whole generation of people.” He hopes the march would draw the attention of Chicago citizens outside of violence-torn neighborhoods and lead them to action. “Faith without works is dead,” Pfleger said. To combat silence around gang murders, Pfleger has begun offering rewards of $5,000 for information on the deaths of community members.
Cardinal Cupich has followed Pfleger’s example and committed $250,000 to anti-violence efforts in the city. He envisions this march for peace as a first step in the Archdiocese’s fight against violence. “If we don't do this as a church, we might as well pack up,” Cupich told reporters. “This is what we should be doing.”