PITTSFORD — If you read some of the headlines printed the week America celebrated its independence, you could be forgiven for despairing of peace in our world.
North Korea fired several missiles over the Sea of Japan. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued. And in Rochester, four people were killed between July 3 and July 6 — three of them within a 26-hour period.
However, if you put down your newspaper and made your way to the chapel located inside the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, 150 French Road, you could find a brief respite from the violence consuming the world. Inside the chapel, you’d find people of different faiths joining hands, singing songs, hearing Scripture and sitting in silence as they prayed for peace.
For the past four years, the Sisters of St. Joseph have hosted such “Prayer for Our Times” services the first Tuesday of each month, according to Sister Donna Del Santo, the congregation’s director of vocations. Veterans, Protestant churches, Catholic youth groups, Nazareth Academy students, children with developmental disabilities and Sufi Muslims have been among the different groups invited to host the services, she said, which generally feature prayers, readings, hymns and moments of silence.
For Sister Del Santo, the services bolster her own ministerial efforts, which include ministering to inmates, she said.
“It makes me not feel alone in my efforts, and gives me hope that there are many other people striving in our community for wholeness and holiness,” she said.
Since July 4 fell on Tuesday, this month’s service was held on Wednesday, July 5, and drew about 80 people who came to hear hymns and music performed by the chancel choir of Calvary St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Rochester.
The Rev. Deborah Fae Swift, the church’s music minister, also serves as director of operations at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, Rochester. The center is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph and provides medical, dental educational and social services to area residents. She said she was happy to hold a service with the sisters because her church and the religious order have “a lot more in common than not,” in that both groups promote social justice. On that ecumenical note, Sister Del Santo said the service contrasts with how some in the world today want to use religion as a reason to war with others.
“Others are going to stay faithful to a more militant way,” she said. “We’re going to stay centered on God’s message of peace and unity.”
“God by any name is still God,” Rev. Swift added, a point echoed by Father Peter Deckman, parochial vicar for the City West churches of Holy Apostles, Holy Family and St. Anthony of Padua in Rochester. Father Deckman said he was impressed by the service and the way it brought people of different beliefs together.
“It’s important, and it provides another way to see the face of God,” he said.
Fingering the beads of her rosary, Sister of St. Joseph Francis Cecilia English, a retired French teacher, said a number of reasons were behind her decision to come to the service, including the tensions between America and Iran and North Korea. The service inspired her to foster peace in her heart so that she can have peace with her neighbors, she said, noting that such peace in turn can lead to peace in the wider world.
“Peace is the one thing that unites everybody, and we all want peace, and together we unite our voices to God to help us find the way to peace,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The next prayer service for peace at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m. For information, call Sister Donna Del Santo at 585/641-8122.