News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 8, 2013

Valley residents pray for peace in Syria

St. Patrick’s hosts 5-hour vigil

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A devoted group of people gathered inside St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Terre Haute at 1 p.m. on Saturday to begin a five-hour Vigil for Peace.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world — six hours ahead — at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, another group of people also gathered to pray.

As one, Catholics responded to Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and other conflict-affected places.

Before his traditional Angelus prayer last week, the Pope invited all people, “including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions ... to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

“Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace,” Francis said.

Participating in Terre Haute was Susan Burnell, a parishoner at St. Margaret Mary Church.

“I think it’s very important that we pray to God for peace,” she said as she waited for the vigil to begin.

“It can only be done through belief and trust in God,” she said.

And with those words, the vigil began.

“For five hours, we shall vigil. We vigil for peace,” said Father Rick Ginther as he led the beginning of the vigil at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

“We ask for peace not only for ourselves but also for Syria” and other conflicts in the world, Ginther, who is pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church and St. Patrick’s Church, said to those gathered.

The five-hour vigil included songs, readings, group prayers and silent adoration. At the beginning of each hour, a leader from one of the city’s Catholic churches led the prayer and reflection.

The rest of the time was spent in silent prayer. Attendees were free to spend as much time as they like.

Structured and less structured periods of prayer were also held Saturday at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute and Annunciation Parish in Brazil, respectively.

The first hour of the Vigil for Peace reflected on the intercession of Mary under one of her titles, Queen of Peace.

“Our Holy Father has asked us to remember Mary, Queen of Peace,” Ginther told the group.

“Her Son came to bring peace. ... Our devotion to Mary is always rooted in her son,” Ginther told the Tribune-Star.

Pope Francis specifically asked Catholics to invoke the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, during his speech. The day, Sept. 7, is also significant, the Pope said, because it is the day before the birth of Mary.

Mary’s birthday is traditionally celebrated on Sept. 8 of each year.

“Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love,” the Pope said.

Another attendee, Krista Arrojo, agrees.

“I believe that asking for Mary’s intercession brings about change also, which our world so desperately needs right now,” Arrojo, who attends St. Patrick’s, said.

The second hour, led by Father Matthew Malek, associate pastor of St. Benedict Parish, looked at “peace through the mind of St. Francis,” Ginther said.

 The third hour, led by Sister Joan Slobig, parish life coordinator at St. Mary-of-the-Woods Village, reflected on two church documents on peace through the lens of St. Mother Theodore Guerin. The fourth hour, led by Barb Black of Sacred Heart Parish reflected upon “Christ our peace through the writings of St. Paul,” Ginther said.

At 5 p.m., the fifth hour, members of the Legion of Mary from St. Margaret Mary and St. Patrick’s led the rosary. The regular 6 p.m. mass at St. Patrick’s was offered for peace.

“We’re asking the Lord to inspire the world to consider peace before war and negotiations before the use of force,” Ginther said after the short prayer during the first hour.

“And we’re praying for the people of Syria and all the refugees, the whole region of the Middle East and wherever there is conflict,” he added.

“The whole mission of Christ is to bring peace to us and there are times when we don’t do that very well,” Ginther said.

And so they prayed for peace.

“I think fasting and praying ... bring about change in the world,” Arrojo said as she bowed her head to pray.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or