CROSSwalk II: A Call to Prayer and Action

February 27, 2013

At a time when news of shooting deaths fills the local newspaper and debates about gun control rage in legislatures around the country, the Diocese of Chicago is once again calling people to pray and to act.

On March 22 at 6 p.m. the second annual CROSSwalk, a prayerful four-mile procession to inspire and energize participants in the struggle against gun violence, will begin with a service on the plaza at St. James Commons.

CROSSwalk is both an act of public worship and a fast-growing organization that seeks to ameliorate the root causes of gun violence, said Jacqueline Clark, director of CROSSwalk, and a postulant in the diocese's ordination process. "Our public witness is what has captured people's attention," she added, "but our real work begins when the procession is over."

More than 1,000 people participated in the first CROSSwalk last March, and this year organizers are hoping to double that number. The procession wends its way from St. James Commons to Daley Plaza and Old St. Patrick's Church before reaching Stroger Hospital, where so many of the victims of gun violence die or are saved from death. 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.

Steve Pike, a member of All Saints' Episcopal Church, Chicago, whose son Ricky was murdered in 2012, will be among those who offer reflections.

Last year, CROSSwalk received extensive media coverage, and marked a commitment by Bishop Jeff Lee and other diocesan leaders to move the issue of gun violence to the top of the diocese's advocacy agenda.

"We simply cannot continue to ignore the heartwrenching loss of young life that occurs with such horrifying frequency in the cities of northern Illinois," Bishop 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 10; to take part in the citywide volunteer day on May 12, and to provide summer employment for young people.

"I think sensible gun laws do have an opportunity to make a difference, especially in the area of straw purchases," Clark says. "But we also have to deal with the problems of poverty, failing schools and a lack of jobs."

More than 30 faith and civic organizations will participate in CROSSwalk, including the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Peace and Justice, Old Saint Patrick's Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim Action Society. Religious and civic leaders joining Bishop Lee in the procession including Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of The Faith Community of St. Sabina.

"This past year has been about building relationships," Clark says. "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."