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Saint Mary’s students gather in prayer for peace

and | Friday, October 13, 2023

On Wednesday morning in the Center for Faith, Action and Ministry office, Saint Mary’s College students gathered to pray for peace in the Holy Land. 

Ecumenical chaplain Carrie Badertscher, who organized the event, said the purpose of the prayer service was “to provide a space for people to gather in community to recognize the grief and pain that was being felt by not only them but by their sisters on campus who were directly impacted by what was taking place in Israel and Palestine.”

The service was created to be inclusive to all faith backgrounds in order to acknowledge that the Holy Land is not exclusive to any singular religion. Composed of prayers from Rabbi Nico Sokolovsky, readings from the Old Testament, a prayer for peace found in the Sim Shalom and Lev Shalom and a prayer from Rev. Peter Colwell, the service took the form of a “communal lament.” 

“[The service] truly wasn’t a place to provide answers for what was going on and recognizing the complexity of seeking peace and good for all people, but truly just providing a place where we could come together and lament at the gravity of what was taking place,” Badertscher said.

Badertscher acknowledged the difficulty of properly acknowledging each faith at an interfaith service.

“I recognize that I don’t know all the things and interfaith services can be very difficult to fully honor every person that is in the room. I spent a good deal of time trying to gather prayers from rabbis specifically and from those of other faith groups and trying to understand how to honor each person in the room,” Badertscher said.

She said that the service aimed to recognize a shared intent, regardless of faith, to seek the common good of all people.

“I felt like as a community that we could each get behind that,” Badertscher said.

To conclude the prayer service, students tied pieces of yarn around one another’s wrists to remind themselves of the difficult circumstances but also to remind themselves that they are not alone in grief.

“Be slow to speak and quick to listen, especially to our brothers and sisters who have been directly impacted by what’s taking place,” Badertscher said. “I think in a time that could be completely divisive, we recognize that to seek peace means to do that for people within arms reach for us first and that means offering dignity and good charity to those in front of us who may feel differently.”

On Thursday morning, the Center for Faith, Action and Ministry held a votive mass presided by Fr. Karl Romkema, who began his homily by addressing the ideas and principles of peace. 

“To make peace is a very complex and dynamic work. We’re taking into account the interest and the feelings, the grudges, various peoples and there is just layers and layers of complexity. There are also layers of complexity within each one of us,” Romkema said.

Romkema said that the principal virtue peacemaking requires is hope.

“As we look around our time of the world, living in a particular way this week we see violence, indiscriminate bombings, intrinsic evils, the killing of innocents,” he said. “It can make us reflect very negatively on our world and the human condition, what we’re capable of as humans … Hope is the resilient and steadfast ability to see that the world now is not the way that the world will be.”

Romkema also highlighted the virtue of humility.

“The word humility means to below, it comes from the same word as earthiness or dirt. I think that is above all the virtue to acquire and to build upon if we were to be people of peace. Not just people who resist violence but people who actually build and foster and promote peace in our world,” Romkema said.

To conclude his homily, Romkema offered words of encouragement.

“Today we pray for the gift of hope and trust in humans and trust in ourselves and for the courage and the humility to build peace with resilience and steadfastness,” he said. “Then as we look forward to the world to come will actually begin to see it manifest itself and overflowing into our lives and into our hearts.” 

Nora Clark, a freshman at the College, commented on the votive mass, noting that it was “thought-provoking.”

“I feel like I have a lot to reflect on and think about what it means to be a peacemaker,” Clark said. “Prayer is important and Fr. Karl reminded us that hoping and praying for the future is a good step when we are not in control of the problem and when we pray and hope for something in the future it may also overflow into the present.” 


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