As many readers already know, Walter Bonam, a member of the archdiocesan staff, was shot in a home invasion July 6 in front of his wife and daughter. He remains paralyzed but in prayerful and hopeful spirits.
In the subsequent days, four were shot, one killed, on Bourbon Street. A mother is suspected of taking the lives of her three children and then her own. A son is suspected of beating his elderly father to death. A Catholic priest was robbed and murdered.
Unfortunately, these are but a few of the violent acts our New Orleans-area community has dealt with in the past two weeks.
Since Ash Wednesday, the Catholic churches of the Archdiocese of New Orleans have been reciting a prayer for the New Battle of New Orleans – a prayer asking God to help us overcome violence, murder and racism in our community and for us to come together as one family. In the prayer, we ask God to give us his wisdom to “build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.”
Sadly, today’s society does not value human life. Daily, we hear about another murder or another act of violence against a child, and there is much talk about the need to change this – but what is being done? We live in a time when it’s easier to get a gun than a job. We see parents unable to provide for their children. We watch as homeless camps spring up under bridges.
God calls us to both prayer and action, and today, I am calling on the entire community to pray for peace in our streets and to take action to work for peace. I call on all of us to work together toward a culture that respects human life and teaches each individual person to respect himself or herself and treat others with dignity. It is time to stop expecting someone else to bring about change. It is time for us all to stand together and work together to make our community a safe place to live, work and play.
In September, the archdiocese will implement an action plan as part of its New Battle of New Orleans campaign: a mentoring and parenting skills program based at church parishes. We hope to make our parishes safe havens for young people – a place they can go no matter their religion to escape the violence of the streets and, in some cases, their homes. I pray that this program will be a success and that we will see its fruits in our neighborhoods. I challenge you to get involved or find some way to take action to fight this battle in our community.
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to face the challenges of our time.