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Heal The Land

May 24, 2022

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Heal The Land

by Gerianne Dobmeier

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. His death later ruled a homicide, sparked protests around the world. But two years later, little has changed. Just 10 days ago, police charged an 18-year-old with murder and a hate crime in the deaths of 10 Black people at an inner-city grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Franciscan Associate Gerianne Dobmeier wrote about the interfaith service she attended with nine Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Excruciating pain spread through the Buffalo community when a gunman consumed by hatred immersed in racism gunned down ten innocent victims and injured three others at an inner-city neighborhood TOPS Supermarket. People expressed surprise, anger, fear, and confusion as the news spread. But that isn’t where the story ends.

Throughout the City of Buffalo, Western New York, and beyond, people pulled together to “heal the land.” It began with street memorials honoring the victims near the TOPS Supermarket, overflowing with flowers and symbolic items from visitors sharing their grief and sadness. Next, the community organized and coordinated food donations, provided free transportation to grocery stores, and collected funds for funeral expenses. There were opportunities to attend liturgies and prayer services. These impassioned actions created a unified front that says “enough is enough” to the callous disregard for human life. In a show of solidarity, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities Sisters Louise Alf, Pat Burkard, Concetta DeFelice, Marianne Ferguson, Renee Kopacz, Kathleen Murphy, Peggy Wetzel, Barbara Whelan and Barbara Woody, along with Associate Gerianne Dobmeier attended the Interfaith Prayer service at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church on Monday, May 23.

Believers from various faith backgrounds filled the church. Bishop Michael W. Fisher, Diocese of Buffalo, led the interfaith prayer service, “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled.” Greeting the people, Bishop Fisher expressed the need to follow the gospel message, “Love is at the heart of our Christian life,” and “Together we find comfort and solace in Jesus Christ.” Imam Syed Khalilulla Qadri followed with a reading from the Koran, sharing the story of Cain and Abel. He told the crowd that there is wisdom in the belief that “One who kills unjustly has killed all of humanity, yet one who preserves life, preserves all of humanity.” Pastor James Giles said that he does not hate the shooter but that he is “angry at the outcome of what he did…angry at the people who hate me just because of the color of my skin.” Pastor Tim Brown continued by asking us to have courage and perseverance to do our part to defeat the racism and division that is destroying our country.

Inspired by the powerful hymns the talented St. Martin de Porres choir sang, the prayer-filled message of “Heal O Lord…Heal Our Land” resounded throughout the church, moving all to do their part to end this hatred, evil, and violent racism. It was an evening of spirit-filled unity based on Bishop Fisher’s statement, “We are about love; tragedy will not define us!”

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

(NOTE: Gerianne is a Franciscan Associate and member of our Communications and IT Services department. She lives just ten minutes from the Buffalo TOPS Market where the racially-motivated attack occurred.)