Planning for peace


Vigil_for_Peace_meeting_1Diocesan youth to hold Vigil for Peace

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

It all started in February when Father Paul Machira delivered his homily at St. Cecilia Church in Solvay. He told his parishioners about the violence of the war in his native village in Kenya. Father Machira spoke of how one of his friends was driving on a forbidden road in the village and was pulled out of his vehicle and murdered. He told of another instance in which 53 villagers were killed as they were attending church.

In tears, 12-year-old Brianna Condon turned to her mother, St. Cecilia parishioner and youth minister Terri Condon, and asked, “Mom, what can we do?” When she woke the next morning, Condon had come up with an idea of how to help. Her initial idea was to hold a diocesan-wide, all-night Vigil for Peace. When Condon suggested it to some other youth ministers in the area, they were excited about the prospect.

As the result of some quick planning over the last month, teens in the parishes of Solvay, Camillus, Baldwinsville, Marcellus, Oswego, Fulton and Utica/Rome are asking for all houses of worship to gather on the night of May 1, the National Day of Prayer, to pray for peace.

The National Day of Prayer is a day designated by the U.S. Congress as a day when all Americans, regardless of faith, are asked to come together and pray in their own way. It is held on the first Thursday in May. On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law.

The youth feel that with churches participating in this vigil with prayers, songs and poems, it will help to end violence in the streets, schools, families and in the world. The teens have formed a committee to organize the evening’s events.

They gathered recently with a number of youth ministers to plan the particulars of the special night and the methods they would use to get the word out. Derek Belvito, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church in Camillus and a sophomore at Marcellus High School, attended the meeting and expressed his happiness about the Vigil for Peace. “It’s a fantastic feeling to know that there will be more than a million people who will be praying at the same time,” said Derek. “It’s so powerful and inspiring.”

Although each parish will celebrate the Vigil in its own unique way, the youth have asked all churches to line their entrance walkways with luminary bags and to end the Vigil outside the church with everyone holding candles and reciting the same prayer at the same time — 8:55p.m. The closing prayer will be posted on their new website

The teens have also listed some suggested activities for the Vigil on their website. A link to the parishes who will be hosting the Vigil is also provided. To date, St. Ann and St. Daniel, both in Syracuse, St. Augustine in Baldwinsville, St. Joseph in Camillus, St. Cecilia in Solvay, the Catholic Community of Fulton and St. Mary in Oswego all plan to sponsor the Vigil in their parish.

Condon explained that St. Cecilia and the Catholic Community of Fulton plan to include their elementary religious education students in the special service. They will sing the “Our Father.”

The rosary will be prayed in six different languages at St. Cecilia. It will begin with English and then move on to Swahili, Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Polish. A brief statement concerning the violence in each country will be given prior to the start of the spoken language segment. The children will also bring their Bibles to be blessed.

The languages that will be spoken during the Vigil at the Catholic Community of Fulton are English, French, Spanish, German and possibly Polish. Heidi Buda, youth minister at the parish, said that each religious education class will recite a part of the rosary.

The teens plan on wearing a specially-designed t-shirt to school two or three times weekly before the Vigil as a means of advertising the event. The shirt is light blue with the phrase “Give Peace a Chance” printed on the front while the back of the shirt sports a logo which consists of a white dove in the shape of a flame. Condon’s daughter, Aubrey, a graphic design major at SUNY Fredonia, designed the logo. The shirts can be purchased on the website.

A flier entitled “Vigil for Peace” has been sent to all schools, notifying young people of the special event.

Condon said the directors of religious education have embraced the idea of the Vigil. The younger children in religious education classes have done their part to advertise the event. They have cut out and decorated paper doves and olive branches. The doves are now on display in the church vestibules.

Christine Flask, a St. Cecilia parishioner and a sophomore at West Genesee High School in Camillus, is looking forward to singing at the Vigil. “I’m really excited and I’m anxious to put out the message of peace,” said Christine. “It’s the one thing our world needs. The Vigil sends a powerful message with our faith. It’ll make a difference.”

“We’ve done all this so quickly,” said Condon. “We’re hoping for bigger and better next year.”
For more information about the Vigil for Peace, check out the website or contact Terri Condon at

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