By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Hundreds of people quietly slipped in and out of churches all across Philadelphia on Oct. 8 during the hour of prayer that Cardinal Justin Rigali called for at the funeral of Sgt. Patrick McDonald two weeks ago.
The Cardinal chose to spend that hour at Christ the King Church in Northeast Philadelphia because it was McDonald’s parish. He was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter along with hundreds of people on their knees “expressing our profound dependency on God,” Cardinal Rigali said. “What cannot be accomplished by our own power, God can accomplish by His. He can build up a city of peace and justice. The power of prayer opens hearts and doors to peace in our city. This has been the prayer and aspiration of our hearts this evening.”
Hundreds more joined the Cardinal spiritually at 105 parishes across the city, where Catholic churches were opened to remember Officers Gary Skerski, Charles Cassidy and Isabel Nazario and Sgts. McDonald and Stephen Liczbinski.
The faithful also remembered the officers’ families and prayed for the safety of all police officers and firefighters “who offer up so much for our safety and tranquility,” the Cardinal said.
The latest murder, the fifth officer in two years, has left people seeking solutions to the problem of violence.
Officer Michael Rafferty of the 9th district and a parishioner of St. Gabriel Parish in the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia, says that adding more cops to the streets is a band-aid to a bigger problem.
“There’s simply no respect for life. How can you expect respect for police in a city that voted to be called a pro-abortion city?” asks Officer Rafferty, who has been on the force for 12 years. “It’s the breakdown of family. It’s kids with no fathers around and who grow to hate authority. And it’s a Godless public school system. Then add drugs, gangs and a court system that lets out felons for whatever reason. We arrest people over and over but they get out.”
He is happy the Cardinal has been a leader in various peace and prayer initiatives because he believes prayer will change the culture and be a defense in the spiritual warfare.
“We need to pray the rosary and go to more adoration,” he said. “We need to support organizations like Generation Life that teach about chastity and spread the messages of the Culture of Life.”
Madeline Ciecka also says that prayer is where to start.
She joined the Cardinal at Christ the King, which is also her parish, and was grateful for his and Mayor Nutter’s presence, she said.
“The Lord always told us to come to Him when things are bad, to put it in His hands and He’ll help us with it, so that’s what we’re doing because we certainly need help,” she said.
She also expressed frustration saying that judges need to be held accountable for letting felons off.
“They are the ones letting these criminals out time after time after time. Just today a judge let a criminal go and he had a record a mile long. She should be held accountable for that, especially now after all this. The people from Philadelphia just don’t get it. Our officials somewhere along the line are letting us down and … we are fed up.”
Fellow parishioner Senice Jackson wants to see more gun control laws and Lisa Lithgow wants to see stricter parole to help reduce the violence, they said.
But ultimately both agree that prayer is the first step.
“When you are praying you certainly are not being violent,” Lithgow said. “So I think if more people pray, the violence will certainly subside.”