Take Back the Site

June 10, 2014

By Sister Pierre D.

Sister Mary Paul C., a Sister of Mercy, sprinkles holy water at a Take Back the Site service held in February, 2014. Reprinted with permission from Times Publishing Company, Erie, PA. Copyright 2014

Sister Mary Paul C., a Sister of Mercy, sprinkles holy water at a Take Back the Site service held in February, 2014. Reprinted with permission from Times Publishing Company, Erie, PA. Copyright 2014

In 1999, after the brutal murder of a 5-year-old girl, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, started a ministry called Take Back the Site. Their mission was to bring God’s peace and comfort to the victim’s family and friends; to restore God’s peace to the place where violence has taken place; and to put forth a message of nonviolence to the community.

Today, the program has grown to include sponsorship from the Sisters of Mercy—New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania as well.  
When a murder occurs in Erie, the leader from one of these three religious communities first speaks to the family of the victim to offer comfort and support. They also help to arrange a gathering at the site where the violence took place. We invite people in the community and the media because we want to raise awareness, especially among teens and young adults, that violence is wrong and has serious results. We want young people to know that God is there for everyone; we must turn to Him, and not to violence, in our times of need.

At the gatherings, we first have a reading from Scripture, then a sister or minister will offer words of comfort to the victim’s family. Afterwards, we sing “Amazing Grace” and “This is Holy Ground.” While singing, one of the sisters will sprinkle the ground with water as a symbol of God’s reclaiming a spot violated by murder. We pray not only for the victim, but also for the person who has committed the act of violence and their loved ones as well. After the prayer service, sometimes attendees will express words of comfort to the victim’s family and friends.

There has been a decrease in the number of violent murders here. Since January this year we have only held three gatherings, which is much less than we’ve had in the past. We pray we don’t need to hold any more; we pray, too, for a greater regard for life and a more peaceful resolution to violence and anger. We hope through our efforts and prayers, God will bring grace upon the Erie and its people and help the Holy Spirit to make people aware of the wrongs being done by violence.

At Take Back the Site, friends and family members find spiritual comfort through a brief service and personal reflections. Reprinted with permission from Times Publishing Company, Erie, PA. Copyright 2014

At Take Back the Site, friends and family members find spiritual comfort through a brief service and personal reflections. Reprinted with permission from Times Publishing Company, Erie, PA. Copyright 2014

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  1. marianne comfort

    What a beautiful ministry! Thank you for this witness to nonviolence and peace-making.


  2. Dale Jarvis, RSM

    Thank you for what you do in the name of Mercy and for the families of these violent crimes.
    Dale


  3. Marilyn Brewer RSM

    What a beautiful work of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
    Very proud all of Take Back the Site.


  4. Sr. Mary Cabrini Taitano

    What an inspiring ministry. Maybe South Central Community and WestMidWest can start the same in Ferguson, Missouri. Blessings in all you do!


  5. Susan Puleo

    I just heard Bout Take Back the Site today at a deacon gathering in Venice Florida. I am an associate of SSJ Buffalo, and am very interested in doing something like this in Venice Diocese. Maybe Peace and Justice in parishes can bring it to the streets… Thank you for your example of service and prayer!


  6. Marian Thérèse Arroyo, RSM

    What a wonderful ritual of restoring peace and harmony where damage to the human spirit has been done. It is an inspiration and certainly one that can be replicated wherever we are. Thank you for your courage and giving witness to God’s mercy.

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