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‘There can’t be unity without empathy’: Faithful in Steubenville march, pray for healing

ON THE MARCH — Faith leaders and dozens of members of the public march onto North Seventh Street in Steubenville from University Boulevard, part of a more-than-2-mile journey to Holy Name Cathedral, where a service was held to pray for unity in America. (Photo by Linda Harris)

STEUBENVILLE — Scores of city residents took part in Saturday’s “Unite Our Nation” activities, which culminated with a more-than-2-mile processional on foot from Franciscan University of Steubenville to Holy Name Cathedral Square for an ecumenical prayer service.

There, more than 170 people gathered to pray for an end to the nation’s political and philosophical divisions.

The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said it’s time to “look at our hearts, (not) at a person’s politics or the color of their skin. Look at our hearts. (He) called us to this place at this time to be at the heart of this reconciliation,” he told the crowd. “The evil one has no place here.”

The Rev. Vaughn Foster Sr., executive director of Relationship Builders, said until we see others where they are, not where we want them to be, “they’re not going to be interested in anything you have to say.”

“There can’t be unity without empathy,” he added. “There’s no way we can all come together if we don’t feel each other’s pain. We need to listen with our hearts. Not until we can empathize with each other, see where each other is and hear each other’s hurt, can we take steps toward unity.”

Foster reminded the crowd of St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace: ” … Make me an instrument of your peace: Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy…”

“If there’s going to be unity anywhere, it has to start with the body of Christ,” Foster added.

The Rev. Toni Hubbard referred the crowd to Psalms 133, reminding them, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

“God is smiling down on us today,” she said, adding, “It’s not about who you are or where you are. It’s about having God in your life. If we allow him to manifest himself in our lives,” divisions will be healed.

A tearful Hubbard, clutching her mother’s Bible, told them she’d had a vision of herself walking up stairs, “there were several people before me. I didn’t see their faces, I just know they were there before me. I don’t know what it means, but I know his love will hold if we come together in unity.”

Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Monforton said it’s clear Americans must “address the cancers that are (dividing) our country, but let us also recognize the cure.”

“Hope finds expression with prayer,” he said.

Monforton recited the Beatitudes, telling those gathered at the square, “What you do following the service will be more important than our gathering today.”

“Peacemakers are people who united others, who destroy hostility itself,” he said. “We need to request humility, we need to request forgiveness, we need to request reconciliation.

“We need to be the adults in the room,” he said, adding, “You and I must be spiritually contagious, to instill hope in our brothers and sisters.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Monforton said. “Blessed are the hopeful. Blessed are those who seek to unify people…It all begins with prayerful encouragement.”

Pivonka added that it’s time to “come together as people of God, as people of faith.”

“If we can’t come together for our community, for our family, how do we expect to make changes in our community?” Pivonka asked, telling them that, “The same spirit that brought people of God together 2,000 years ago brought us together today.”

The Unite Our Nation activities began at Franciscan University of Steubenville with a morning mass, followed by a Eucharistic rosary processional from the campus.

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaronline.com)

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