Faith leaders gather to foster anti-abuse initiative

An interfaith and multi-cultural celebration of children worldwide was held April 4 on the front lawn of Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s home on South Carrollton at Walmsley avenues in New Orleans. 

“We come together today to give praise to God and to ask God to bless the young people here, the young people they represent throughout this metropolitan area and the children of the world,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We know that from the Christian Scriptures, the Hebrew Scriptures and other scriptures there is always great reverence for the child. And we come together to thank God today for the gift of children and how you enrich our world, our families, our schools and our communities.”
But sometimes, young people or children are not respected, he said.

“Because of that, there is abuse of children, whether that’s physical abuse, verbal abuse and sometimes sexual abuse,” Archbishop Aymond said. “As we come together to ask God’s blessing, we are mindful of and we pray for those whose lives have been affected and sometimes those children who have lost their lives because of the lack of respect. But … we thank God for you – the young people of our society, the young people of our various churches, and we ask God to bless you. In your face and your life we see goodness, and we see a loving God.”

Keeping children in mind

Sister of Mount Carmel Mary Ellen Wheelahan, coordinator of the Safe Environment office for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, coordinated the prayer service with Father Buddy Noel, the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. 
“We come here to pray for all children of the world, especially those who suffer from poverty, war and any other form of abuse which prevents them from flourishing,” Sister Mary Ellen said. “We may hold different religious beliefs, spiritual paths and traditions but we are united in the respect of the human dignity of all children and steadfast in our commitment to end the everyday violence that countless children endure.” 
At the event’s conclusion, students from St. Rita School in New Orleans sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and an olive tree of peace was planted. Earlier that day, 300 blue pinwheels – symbolizing child abuse prevention – were planted in the lawn and blew in the breeze as the ecumenical prayer service progressed.
They were obtained from Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana.
Children and adults from Islamic School of Greater New Orleans, the Sikh community of New Orleans and the Catholic archdiocese of New Orleans also read religious passages and spoke of protecting children.
This was the second of three events that Sister Mary Ellen coordinated in April, which is national Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The first was the planting of 750 blue pinwheels, obtained from Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, in Audubon Park on April 3, by Holy Name of Jesus School seventh graders. The third was an April 5 talk at St. Peter Claver on “The Parent-To-Prison Pipeline” by Dr. Stacey Patton, who discussed how corporal punishment of children is a pathway to jail (see page 4).

Sister Mary Ellen was pleased with how the event turned out.
“For years we’ve been talking about having an interfaith prayer service for children,” she said. “We decided during April – Child Abuse Prevention Month – that this was a perfect time to show our appreciation for children and to bring to the children a prayerful awareness that it’s not just one thing or one zip code or one church or one nationality that experiences child abuse, but children around the world of all denominations, cultures and experiences.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at

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