“We simply cannot continue to ignore the heartwrenching loss of young life that occurs with such horrifying frequency in Chicago and other cities in northern Illinois,” Bishop Jeff Lee said. “CROSSwalk calls us to pray, to build relationships and to act as though lives depend on us. And they do.”
Participants in the procession will be asked to make three commitments: to travel to Springfield and lobby the state legislature for stricter gun laws on April 11; to take part in the citywide volunteer day on May 11, and to provide summer employment for young people.
More than 1,000 people participated in the first CROSSwalk last March, and this year organizers are hoping to double that number. The procession will wend its way from St. James Commons to Daley Plaza and Old St. Patrick’s Church before reaching Stroger Hospital, where many victims of Chicago’s gun violence die or are treated. At each stop, those in procession will pray, listen to reflections from those whose lives have been shattered by violence, and hear a call to action.
More than 65 faith and civic organizations from throughout the city and suburbs will participate in the second CROSSwalk procession, including the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Peace and Justice, Muslim Action Society, Advocate Health Care, Urban Village Church, Community Renewal Society, Ecumenism Metro Chicago, and Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, convened by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Religious and civic leaders joining Bishop Lee in the procession include Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of The Faith Community of St. Sabina, and several Episcopal bishops from other communities.
Reflections at each vigil stop will be given by people have been directly affected by gun violence, including Steve Pike, a member of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago, whose son Ricky was murdered in 2012; Julian Roman-Nunez, whose brother Manuel was shot and killed in October 2010; and Aurea Delfin, a junior at De LaSalle Institute and winner of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence’s Student Voices contest.
Last year’s CROSSwalk marked a commitment by Bishop Jeff Lee and other diocesan leaders to move the issue of gun violence and its root causes to the top of the diocese’s advocacy agenda.
“This past year has been about building relationships,” said Jacqueline Clark, director of CROSSwalk, and a postulant in the diocese’s ordination process. “Now we are going to leverage those relationships to create programs that support youth.” CROSSwalk has been cited as a model by bishops across the Episcopal Church looking for a way to involve their diocese more deeply in the struggle to reduce gun deaths.
“I think what an organization like CROSSwalk brings to the movement against gun violence is a group of people who up to this point heard with sadness of young people dying but didn’t understand it was our responsibility,” says the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, which helped launch CROSSwalk and provides support and office space.” It isn’t somebody else’s child. They are all our children.”