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Archbishop Listecki prays for peace at St. Mark's

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Late last month, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee visited St. Mark the Evangelist Parish to pray for peace in the city.

The visit followed four nights of protests and riots following the Jacob Blake shooting. Two others were killed, and another seriously injured during the riots.

Celebrating Mass in a special gathering with local religious leaders on Aug. 27 was Listecki, Father Jerry Herda, Father James Lobacz, priests from the District of Kenosha, and Father Carlos Florez, pastor of St. Mark.

“It was a blessing to be together, praying for Kenosha in these difficult times,” said Florez. “It was the Feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine (whose fervent prayers resulted in her son’s conversion from a sinful life). I feel that the Church, like St. Monica, never stops praying for her people—all people.”

Florez said the Archbishop’s presence was a visible sign of care, support, and unity in good times and in the complicated times.

“He has visited Kenosha many times,” said Florez. “Mass was streamed via Facebook. During the day, some people shared their gratitude, on Facebook, to our Archbishop for this gesture of love to Kenosha.”

Toured areas hit by civil unrest

Following the Mass, the Archbishop toured some of the areas impacted by civil unrest in a gathering that’s wasn’t a public gathering but an opportunity for the archbishop to see the scenes himself and to pray for the city.

Florez explained that it was a powerful experience to accompany Listecki throughout these areas.

“When we were in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse at Civic Center Park, Archbishop Listecki prayed and blessed the area where police, protesters, and others heard the voice of the community asking for justice,” he said. “We went to St. James Church and met Fr. Sean Granger (pastor of St. Elizabeth and St. James Parishes) and Fr. Bob Weighner, (pastor of St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie). Together we went to the front of St. James where we prayed and blessed that area. We drove to the uptown area and stopped at the corner of 22nd Avenue and 63rd Streets. We gathered to pray and blessed this area as well. Once we were finished here, the Archbishop and his team went back to Milwaukee.”

Listecki said he was glad he could visit Kenosha, celebrate Mass with the pastors who invited him to be present with them, and pray for all those in the city.

“It was the feast of St. Monica, a saint well-known for her persistence in prayer before God,” he said.

“When we are confronted with any type of crisis it is natural for Christians to turn to God in prayer and seek his assistance in creating a sense of peace and harmony. The Kenosha community experienced violence and destruction.”

Essential to work together in crisis

Florez said the Milwaukee Archdiocese and the Districts affected by crisis need to work together for peace and the good of all.

“They need to create and form a team to talk, reflect, discern, pray and act as a Catholic Church,” he said, adding, “The ecumenical work in Kenosha is a blessing. In this time of crisis, CUSH was a wonderful platform to speak out and put faith and reality together.”

Listecki agreed and suggested that all spiritual leaders in a community affected by crisis join together for peace and comfort.

“The spiritual leaders in a community call upon their communities to move forward addressing the problems with the understanding that working together through collaborative cooperation, a new sense of hope will emerge,” he said. “I personally was greeted by many who offered me thanks for my presence and encouraged me to continue my prayers and spiritual leadership.”

Working with the administration in the City is essential for bringing about peace and unity and in cases such as the recent violence, Florez said the City needs all the help Catholics can give.

“It is important to find words of compassion and healing when we preach in our daily celebration and Sunday liturgies,” he said. “We also need to be empathetic with all the victims and their families and friends and hold them in our prayers, statements, and in person, if possible; this is part of our healing ministry in a crisis.”

Listecki said that it was hurtful to him and all of the pastors that a wound like this would appear in the community. He said the Church should have a presence in helping others through the healing process.

“Healing can only come about when we trust in God and the goodness of each other,” he said.

Despite the challenges of moving forward in the wake of tragedy, Florez said it is also a powerful time to affirm belief in the dignity of the human person, common good, solidarity, and participation in our local Catholic schools and religious education programs.

“We need to have meetings to talk about what is going on in our lives, in this crisis, at St. Mark’s and in our world today,” he said. “This has been very important for the staff (to learn how to) serve the community better.”

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