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Catholic Voice
August 11, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
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Bishop Barber to join anti-violence walks

Before night falls on Richmond Sept. 5, a group of people will gather to take a walk.

They'll be neighbors, members of area churches of various faiths, and community leaders. They meet each Friday at 7 p.m. to participate in Cease-Fire Night Walk, designed to end violence in the community. Those walks in North Richmond often take them past scenes of past violence.

Cease-Fire Night Walk
When: Sept. 5, 7 p.m.
Where: St. Mark Church,
199 Harbor Way, Richmond
Mass: 6 p.m., at the church
Celebrant: Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ
On this particular Friday evening, the walk will begin at St. Mark Church, where parishioners have taken part in these walks since 2012. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will be walking with the parishioners, and their parochial administrator, Father Ramiro Flores, who has been active in non-violence efforts in the city.

Before the walk, the bishop will celebrate Mass at 6 p.m. at the church, which is at 159 Harbor Way.

St. Mark Parish is a recipient of a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development made to the California Conference of Catholic Bishops. The program the grant funded, Ceasefire Lifelines to Healing, has already shown results, according to the CCHD report.

Oakland walk
set for Aug. 22

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will join the Friday Night Walk in Oakland Aug. 22. The walk, sponsored by Ceasefire Oakland, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at At Thy Word Church, 8915 International Blvd. The interfaith walk includes representatives from St. Louis Bertrand Church in Oakland and from Oakland Catholic Worker.

The walk begins with an opening prayer and "going over the rules," said Tom Webb of Oakland Catholic Worker. The walk itself begins about 7 p.m., he said, with walkers back to the starting point by 8:30 p.m.

Among the rules: Stay to the inside of sidewalks, closest to the building; carry no money; try to talk to everyone; don't offer anything you can't provide; and pray with people if asked.

Some of the walkers, from the CityTeam Ministries' shelter for people with substance abuse problems, carry signs encouraging people to "Be safe" and "Be free." The Catholic Worker group is making signs in Spanish to carry on the walks.

There's an economic component to the project as well, Webb said, working toward job development to get people out of drug dealing. A main reason for the walk, he said, is to "encourage these guys to be safe," he said.
In 2013, Richmond experienced the lowest homicide rate in 33 years, the report said, crediting "the strong neighborhood level response and the broad-based collaboration between clergy, community, formerly incarcerated, service providers and law enforcement has been contributed significantly to the decline in overall homicides and the interruption of retaliatory shootings."

The parish is nearly 90 percent Latino immigrants and a significant portion of them are undocumented, according to the report.

The grant grew out of a "what if" moment, said John Watkins, Life and Justice coordinator of the Diocese of Oakland. At a rare statewide meeting of diocesan leaders in ministries such as Respect Life, Social Justice and Restorative Justice, the question was raised, Watkins said, "What if a special grant was requested to respond to violence in our local communities, empowering our local communities?"

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops received $1 million from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is funded by an annual nationwide collection each November. Nine of the 11 dioceses in the state are participating in this particular grant. The Diocese of Oakland portion of the grant — $50,000 — sponsors the Ceasefire project, partnering with the local PICO group, parishioners at St. Mark and St. Cornelius parishes, and Catholic Charities of the East Bay.

Several dioceses in the state are partnering with PICO California, a grassroots congregation-based community-organizing network that represents almost half a million families across the state.

Faith formation, focusing on youth leadership development, is one of the strengths of the Richmond ministry, Watkins said. A leadership academy at St. Mark Parish, for example, will serve not just youth in that parish, but young people from St. Cornelius Parish.

In Richmond, the effort was made to create a ministry, rather than a program, Watkins said. He credited Father Flores, who "expressed the need to respond to the need for healing of those impacted by violence."

One element of that would be the creation of support groups, rather than therapist-led groups.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Watkins noted, usually makes grants to outside groups. This grant, "to a church group for the purpose of organizing the church to respond to how do you build up a community," Watkins said, offers the opportunity to consider, "How do we truly build up a community of salt and light?"

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