Left, Sister Jeanette participates in a homicide vigil; contributed photo. Right, standing by the candles representing the 34 homicide victims in 2017 are prayer leaders (from left) Pastor Stephen Matlock, Body of Christ Deliverance Center; Barbara Mosley, Omega Baptist Church; Jan Reed, Holy Trinity Parish; Pastor Jennifer Scarr, Trotwood Church of the Brethren; absent, Tom Bensman, The Compassionary. Sister Jeanette Buehler photo.
Las Vegas. Orlando. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. These are just a few of the places whose names have now become synonymous with gun violence. While homicides in the Dayton area may not garner national attention, the effects of gun violence are as devastating here as they are in communities both large and small across the U.S.
In 1994, Precious Blood Sisters first began coordinating prayer vigils at sites where homicides had occurred in the Dayton area. Following a hiatus of several years, in 2006 an ecumenical group — again led by the Precious Blood Sisters — resumed the work of this ministry.
Here, as everywhere that gun violence occurs, victims are daughters and sons; mothers and fathers; old and young. The Precious Blood of Jesus calls out to us in the blood of all victims of violence. My personal motivation springs from an ever-growing sense of the call to live out Precious Blood Spirituality as expressed in our mission statement as Sisters of the Precious Blood. In it we state that we “proclaim God’s love by being a life-giving, reconciling presence in our fractured world.” Our world is indeed fractured by the violence that permeates it locally, nationally and globally. By going to the site of homicides, we proclaim that God’s love is greater than the evil that has been perpetrated. The blood of Abel continues to cry out to God in the blood of our brothers and sisters who are murdered in our own day. We “reclaim” the site marred by the shedding of that blood.
Because we are called to be life-givers and reconcilers, we pray not only for the victim, but also for his or her family, for the perpetrator and for his or her family as well. Our presence has, at various times, been a consolation to the families, their friends and even to the neighbors. To some extent we represent the broader Dayton community in saying that others care, that this person did not die without anyone remembering that he or she had lived. I feel this particularly when almost nothing is known about the person who was murdered — no listing of family members or much of anything except the victim’s name and age.
How do we keep on going? I strongly believe that it is the common faith of those of us who attend the vigils that keeps us going. We gain strength from one another, from the witness of family, friends and neighbors who often join us. We believe that prayers are answered, that our beseeching God to end the violence may have prevented even more violence from having occurred. One vigil at a time, we hope to make a difference.
Annual memorial prayer service
There were 35 persons who joined in the annual memorial prayer service for homicide victims on March 10, 2018. This annual service brings together the members who support the vigils by their presence at the site of homicides throughout the year. Victims ranged in age from 6 to 71. As well as remembering the victims, the service provides participants an opportunity to re-commit themselves to the public witness of the vigils and to further supportive relationships among themselves.
– Story by Sister Jeanette Buehler
Prayer to End Violence
God of life, source of hope,
the violence within our world,
indeed our very selves,
is destroying your creation.
In union with the Precious Blood of Jesus,
give us the strength to break the cycle of violence,
to hear the cry of the blood
and make sacred again your earth stained by blood.