‘Hope has two daughters’: Local Catholics rally at prayer vigil against violence

While speaking about hope at a recent prayer vigil held by Cure d’Ars parish, local African Episcopal Minister Rev. Tawana Davis quoted St. Augustine of Hippo, who said this: “Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

On Aug. 4, Cure d’Ars held a special prayer vigil for peace, not only for an end to violence in the Park Hill neighborhood in which they are located, but also for an end to the violence that has been occurring in the nation and around the world, from Baton Rouge to Syria, South Carolina to Iraq.

“Peace is at the heart of Jesus’ Gospel,” said Cure d’Ars pastor Father Simon Kalonga. “Peace and justice, that’s what the Lord likes. So we turn to him tonight, praying for peace, peace in our neigh or hoods, peace in our nation, and peace throughout the world. It is important to turn to the Lord in our time of need, so let us open our minds, our hearts, our ears and our eyes to receive God’s gifts of peace and justice.

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Cure d’Ars held a prayer vigil Aug. 4 for peace and an end to violence, not only globally, but also locally. The vigil served as a strong platform for local Black Catholics to express their feelings about the violence their community has experience, and offered a strong message of hope and perseverance. (Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

During the vigil, parishioners and leaders from Cure d’Ars and the surrounding community expressed their desire for things to change. The parish has been working with other local churches over the past year to form a strong spiritual front against the violence occurring in their collective neighborhoods. One church they’ve been working closely with is Shorter African Methodist Episcopal Church and Rev. Davis. She attended the prayer vigil and delivered a moving message for those who were there.

“Your mere presence here today gives me hope, a hope that is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” she said. “As St. Augustine said, hope has two daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, but the courage to make sure they don’t remain that way. Do not lose your hope. Stay in prayer, keep the faith, and know that things will change.”

“If we truly believe that we serve a God who can do all things and is all things and is everywhere, then we have to believe that we can transform these communities just with our mere presence,” Davis said. “When we are present, that means the spirit of the Lord is present, and if the spirit of the Lord is present, that means that things can and will change.”

As St. Augustine said, hope has two daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, but the courage to make sure they don’t remain that way. Do not lose your hope. Stay in prayer, keep the faith, and know that things will change.”

One Cure d’Ars parishioner, Skeet Johnson, is a former Colorado State public defender of 23 years. Last year, he met Davis and became involved in an ecumenical group of leaders and members from several different local churches facilitated by her to embark on prayer walks throughout the local community. The walks were organized in response to the overwhelming amount of violence that occurred over the summer in Park Hill neighborhood and the surrounding areas.

Not one to simply sit still and do nothing, Johnson believes that Catholics are called by Christ to leave the walls of their churches and be among those who are suffering.

“Being able to share that Christian love that you say you got, rather than keeping it inside of you or inside those walls is what this is about,” he said. “Taking the risk that the Master took; he was no wimp. He was someone who was out there, doing it.”

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Local African Episcopal Minister Rev. Tawana Davis delivered a moving message during the vigil, quoting St. Augustine. Her church, Shorter African Methodist Episcopal church along with Cure d’Ars parish and several other churches began doing prayer walks last summer around the Park Hill neighborhood and surrounding areas, praying in the places where violence had occurred and for the people who live there. (Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

Another parishioner, Minnie Cassel, shared how she has been living in Park Hill for 31 years and has experienced countless shootings, including some right outside of her bedroom window. She also lost one of her daughters to violence in 2007. In spite of what she has seen happen in her neighborhood, she refuses to move.

“They’re not going to run me away,” she told the community. “We need to stay, fight for our homes, fight for our community, fight for our families, fight for our lives. If we keep praying, I’m sure God will hear us and things will change. I honestly believe that, and I hope you do too.”

COMING UP: ‘If it’s prayer, it works’: Cure d’Ars to hold prayer vigil in light of recent violence

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African-American liturgist Grayson Warren Brown often says, “If it’s prayer, it works,” and it’s by this principle that Cure d’Ars parish in Denver hopes to address the violence and hatred that’s been occurring throughout the country and around the world in recent weeks.

Cure d’Ars will hold a special prayer vigil for peace Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. in their church for the local Catholic community. All are invited.

A predominantly African-American parish community, a many of the parishioners of Cure d’Ars have ties to Louisiana. The recent killings in Baton Rouge of both Alton Sterling and the three police officers impacted their community greatly.

“There were so many people who were very worried because they have members of their family who are police officers,” said Cure d’Ars deacon Clarence McDavid. “Being a predominantly African-American community, were also worried because there are the issues of our sons, or the women’s husbands, or brothers or uncles. It’s doesn’t matter what their age is, they could be subjected to police violence.”

It’s not just happening outside of our town; we have lived this in our neighborhoods. We’ve got to turn to God for peace.”

Cure d’Ars has also witnessed firsthand violence in their own Park Hill neighborhood where they are located. Deacon McDavid recounted a time when the people had come out of church after Mass and saw crime scene tape across the parking lot because somebody was shot.

“It’s not just happening outside of our town; we have lived this in our neighborhoods,” said Cure d’Ars pastor Father Simon Kalonga. “We’ve got to turn to God for peace.”

Deacon McDavid said the vigil is meant to be time for prayer and also an opportunity for members of the community to speak and say how they feel about recent events. He also emphasized that politics will have no place at the vigil.

“This is about praying and sharing and praying some more,” Deacon McDavid said. “This is not a political event. This is not about one side blaming the other side. This is about saying that prayer is the only thing that’s going to make a difference.”

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Cure d’Ars parish will hold a prayer vigil for peace on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. The vigil was organized in response to the violence that’s been occurring not only around the world and country, but also here in Denver. (File photo)

The prayer vigil is being organized by Deacon McDavid, Father Kalonga and Sister Marion Weinzapfel, who is in residence at the parish. The patron saint of Cure d’Ars is St. John Vianney, so they decided it would be fitting to hold the vigil on his feast day, Aug. 4.

Deacon McDavid said that prayer is the greatest tool Catholics have, and that truly believing prayer will make a difference is the best thing people can do.

“One of the things we know is that when Christ went up the mountain to pray, his prayer was so fervent, so deep, so sincere, that he was transfigured right in front of his disciples,” Deacon McDavid said. “We probably can’t be transfigured, but we can be changed. If we change, then maybe somebody else will change.”

He recalled Grayson Warren Brown’s quote about prayer and said ultimately, that’s what they’re aiming for with the prayer vigil.

“One of the things he’s always says is, ‘If it’s prayer, it works,’ and that’s what we’re going off of. It’s going to be prayer, so it will work.”

Prayer Vigil for Peace

Thurs., Aug. 4, 7 p.m.
Cure d’Ars Catholic Church
3201 Dahlia St. Denver, CO 80207
For more information, visit curedarschurch.org

(Featured photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)