STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville called for an increase in humility, repentance and prayer as the path to bring healing and peace to the nation.
“Each one of us as an individual, as a town, as a country must reconcile with this reality — that if things are going to change and if things are going to be different, it’s up to us,” Franciscan Father Dave Pivonka said in his homily at a morning Mass Oct. 3 in Franciscan University’s Finnegan Fieldhouse. “It has to be a personal decision that each one of us makes.”
The Mass, celebrated by Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville and followed by a eucharistic procession, was part of a “Unite Our Nation” event that drew together priests, religious sisters, students, other faith leaders and members of the community to pray for the country.
In his homily, Pivonka encouraged people to recognize both the beauty and brokenness present in the church, the nation and their own lives.
“We need to be humble enough to look at the person down the street and recognize that he or she may have a different story or may look different than us, but they are no different in the sight of God,” Pivonka said.
After Mass, Monforton, carrying the monstrance, led about 175 people in a eucharistic procession. They prayed the rosary as they walked more than two miles from the university to Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Steubenville.
The bishop closed the procession with benediction, and then Pivonka introduced local faith leaders for an ecumenical prayer service.
“If there is going to be unity anywhere, it has to start with the body of Christ,” said the Rev. Vaughn Foster Sr., executive director of Relationship Builders, during the service.
He said Christians need to see the world as it is so they can identify with one another’s pain and hear what others have to say because “too often we’re good at telling, but we’re not very good at listening.”
“There can be no unity without empathy,” he said. “Not until we can really empathize with each other, see each other where we are, and hear with our hearts, that we can begin to take those steps toward unity.”
The Rev. Toni Hubbard of Urban Mission Ministries likewise reminded the crowd that the “character of a real Christian will show through our unity.”
“God is smiling down on us today. It’s not about who you are and who I am. It’s about who God is in our life,” she said.
Monforton, reading from the beatitudes, called for people to be peacemakers who actively work to heal broken relationships, love others, and instill hope.
“We are the protagonists in this story of human history,” Monforton said. “You and I can animate our personal vocation through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the source of all joy and hope from whom our very lives find meaning.”
He concluded, “Unite our nation. My dear friends, let’s get to work.”
Franciscan University students offered prayers of petition, and those gathered sang together the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The Steubenville procession was held in union with other “Unite Our Nation” prayer events place across the country the weekend of Oct 3-4. More events were planned in other cities Oct. 10-11.
The events, which include a eucharistic procession and rosary rally, are promoted by the organization Unite Our Nation, which was founded by Catholic laity “to help bring peace and prayer to local communities, and healing to our nation,” according to its website, https://uniteournation.net.
“As the disunity in our country has grown over the past few months, we knew we had to do something,” the site says. “So in Madison, Wisconsin, a few regular men and women organized and took to the streets on the feast of the Assumption in a reverent and peaceful procession.
“We prayed the rosary for our country, invoking all 50 states by name, and asked for blessings and healing as we carried Our Lord. It was beautiful, filled with families. The word got out fast, and with your help we’re taking these processions national.”
The organization emphasizes the events are “prayerful, powerful, nonpolitical.”