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Take Back the Night prayer service focuses on healing, justice

| Thursday, April 15, 2021

The tri-campus community celebrated Take Back the Night Wednesday evening with a candlelight prayer vigil on South Quad.

A large group of marchers — chanting and carrying posters — circled God Quad before congregating around the stage set up for the service.

“No means no. Whatever we wear. Wherever we go. Survivors unite. Take back the night,” the marchers chanted and echoed before sitting down.

Maggie Eastland | The Observer
Students from the tri-campus community gathered on South Quad for the service — some sitting in the distanced chairs and overflow participants standing to the side.

To begin the service, interim director of the Notre Dame Gender Relations Center John Johnstin said the event aimed to welcome any and all faiths.

“Tonight is about solidarity of all of our different faith traditions and spiritual beliefs. [They] all have a place here tonight, and we welcome you,” Johnstin said.

In his introduction of the service, Johnstin also said the purpose of the event would be to pray for guidance to help end violence.

“We now gather to pray, to ask God to heal us and to inspire us with the courage to remove violence from our communities,” he said.

Following Johnstin’s introduction, senior Emily Oppman from Saint Mary’s College took the stage to introduce the Saint Mary’s acapella group, Bella-Capella. The group sang a song titled “Quiet” by singer-songwriter Connie K. Lim, otherwise known as MILCK.

“I can’t keep quiet,” the group sang. “They may see a monster. They may run away, but I have to do this. I can’t keep quiet.”

After the song, Brother Bill Zaydak of Holy Cross College led a prayer for healing and an end to violence.

“Merciful God,” Zaydak prayed with the crowd, “Throughout history you have manifested your love and care for those who have suffered from violence, hatred, and oppression. We ask healing for all who have been harmed by violence and for all who love them.”

Zaydak concluded the prayer by calling for God to continue to encourage the community to oppose violence and harm.

“Inspire us gathered together here tonight to continue to stand against violence and to walk with those harmed,” he said.

Following the prayer, Notre Dame sophomore Molly Doerfler read from the book of Isaiah.

“The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard,” Doerfler read from chapter 58 of Isaiah. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer. You shall cry for help, and he will say: here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger and malicious speech, if you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.”

Next, Holy Cross senior and student body president William Skoch, led the intercessory prayers, asking for God’s guidance to overcome hate and violence through the Church and the leaders of society.

Skoch also prayed for the many campuses across the U.S. participating in Take Back the Night.

“For all campuses across the country, taking back the night, may their voices be a witness to the power of speaking against silence, and may their marching be a sign of solidarity with survivors,” Skoch said.

He also prayed for healing for survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, human trafficking, stalking or any other form of violence.

“May they find power in Christ’s example as a healer to bind the wounds caused by violence,” Skoch said.

The service concluded with information on returning to residence halls safely, the Lord’s prayer and a moment of candlelight solidarity before attendees departed in silence.

Maggie Eastland | The Observer
Three Saint Mary’s women stood near the crowd and held candles as the service concluded.

Zaydak said the candles are a symbol of hope and prayed while those in attendance held a candle.

“Help us to remember that all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of your love and the power of your healing,” Zaydak prayed. “Help us to keep lighting candles of hope, until justice prevails and violence no longer finds a place.”

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