Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 16, 2001
Crosses mark sites of inner city deaths
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Street people in Edmonton's inner city don't die anonymously any longer. Thanks to a Lutheran pastor and a Catholic nun, people who die on the streets in the heart of Edmonton now get some recognition.
For the last six months the Rev. Faith Brace, pastor of the Inner City Pastoral Ministry, and Sister Marion Garneau, a Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception serving in the inner city, have been running a program they call Prayers for Places of Violence.
The project consists of planting a cross and saying some prayers in places where people have been found dead.
The practice began one cold Sunday in November. As Brace and her congregation arrived at the Bissell Centre for the regular Sunday morning worship service, they noticed a body lying on the ground in the vacant lot across the street. A man had frozen to death.
They asked the police if they could say some prayers. The police okayed the operation and thus a new practice began.
"We said some prayers and people still felt very badly and quite helpless about it so I decided we needed to do something," recalled Brace. She wrote a "little liturgy" with prayers that she called Prayers for Places of Violence.
"Even though that particular man had not been beaten up, still it seemed like violence for somebody to die alone in the dark in a place like that, in public," the pastor said.
Brace's husband made some white wooden crosses about two-feet tall, which members of the Bissell Centre congregation later planted in four places where bodies have been found.
"So we decided we should just pray in these particular places because people were afraid," explained Brace. "So we thought we should pray not only for the community but also for those particular places where people had either died or been affected in some way by violence."
In early December they set up the first three crosses, including one across the street from the Bissell Centre and another by a dumpster behind the Mustard Seed Church where a man's body was found stuffed in a garbage bag in a grocery cart.
A fourth cross was set up in mid-January at the corner north of the liquor store on 96th Street and 105A Avenue after a body was found in the vacant lot there.
In every case the planting of the cross was accompanied by a prayer service. In most cases relatives of the victims participated in the services.
A week after the service at the Mustard Seed dumpster, a woman spoke to Brace thanking her for placing the cross there. The victim was her brother. The woman said she went there regularly to pray.
"And then other people have told us they use those places; they stop by the crosses to pray," Brace noted.
"In fact, about a month ago a woman spoke to us and said she was very disappointed because the cross in the vacant lot across from Bissell Centre was gone. She said she went there regularly to pray."
Brace and Garneau replaced it but now it's gone again. "So I don't know whether people are knocking them down or whether they are taking them home but I think they are all gone."
The cross on the lot acrossfrom the Bissell Centre will be erected again on Good Friday as the Way of the Cross procession will stop at the site for a reflection on death and violence.
"We think it is important to pray, especially about the violence in the community because it is very disturbing to everyone," Brace said.
"And it is also important for the community to know that we remember those who die in violent circumstances, even though they may be poor and homeless. They are important to God and to us because in many cases we know them. And they all have families and friends. So we need to recognize that."
Does praying and erecting crosses help curb violence? "I believe it does, that's why I do it," Brace replied.
"We don't see any instant results. There is still violence in the community but I think it is a long-term effort. I think we have to keep doing it."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.