August 15, 2014

SLU Community Calls for Prayer, Peace and Justice in Wake of Ferguson Tragedy

Hundreds of members of the Saint Louis University community came together Thursday for a vigil to pray for peace following the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. The North St. Louis County suburb has been the scene of protests in the wake of the recent shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The gathering at the University's Lipic Clock Tower Plaza was attended by SLU's senior leadership team, as well as many faculty and staff members from across the campus. And though move-in at the University isn't until next week, the crowd also included a large contingent of students, including numerous Billiken student-athletes.

Organized by the University's Department of Campus Ministry, the non-denominational vigil brought leaders of other faith traditions to the SLU campus. The Rev. Elston McCowan, pastor of Star Grace Missionary Baptist Church, led attendees in prayer, while the Rev. Rodrick K. Burton, pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, offered a moving reflection.

University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., said that he couldn't begin to imagine the pain that the family and friends of Michael Brown were experiencing in the wake of their loss. He also reiterated his call for dialogue from a message sent to the University community on Tuesday about the situation in Ferguson. Click here to read his full message.

Fred Rottnek, M.D., associate professor of family and community medicine, read his reflection about the "cry of the poor" that was published in an internal e-newsletter for faculty, staff and students on Tuesday. Click here to read his full reflection. In addition, William Smith, a junior studying African-American studies and anthropology, read a prayer by the late poet Maya Angelou.

In concluding the vigil, Susanne Chawszczewski, Ph.D., SLU's director of Campus Ministry, reminded the crowd that prayers for peace must also include calls for justice. She closed by sharing the following words of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus: "Let there be men and women who will bend their energies not to strengthen positions of privilege, but, to the extent possible, reduce privilege in favor of the underprivileged."

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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