Catholic nun organizes national pre-inauguration event to foster peace

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sister Rita Petruziello said she could feel
the “contention and nastiness” in the air during the presidential election campaign
of the last year. Instead of getting better as the process went along, it kept
getting worse.

“It didn’t matter who won,” she told Catholic News Service Jan. 3. “There would be a lot
of unrest, division and hatred.”

But she couldn’t just sit without doing anything about it and
decided to find a way to counter all those bad feelings she was seeing and

Sister Petruziello, a member of the Sisters of the Congregation St. Joseph in Cleveland, has
since put together Circle the City with Love, an event that seeks to gather people
across cities in the United States on Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time,
have them join hands in their respective cities and, in silence, meditate
together as a means to foster peace.

The intention behind the event is to reduce the
acrimony around the country during and after the presidential election. The title and format had been used before during an event in Cleveland tied to the opening of the Republican
National Convention there in July 2016. And it must have worked, she said,
because Cleveland did not experience the violence many had feared during the

“We had been expecting riots and nothing happened,” she

So now she wants to apply the concept nationally and has asked
people around the country to organize local events that will result in harmony,
not more rancor, prior to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the country’s 45th
president on Jan. 20.

More than 40 groups in 17 cities, as well as a group in Australia
— whose participants will gather at 4 a.m. local time — have agreed to
participate. More continued signing up in early January at, Sister Petruziello said.

Karen Clifton, of Catholic Mobilizing Network in Washington,
said her group will participate, “to stand in solidarity with our sisters and
brothers across the country — and world — praying for peace, mercy, and justice
as we begin this new chapter in history.”

“In the aftermath of a very divisive political season, it is
vital that we move forward with mercy and compassion toward each other,”
Clifton said in an email interview with CNS. “This event
provides the perfect opportunity for each of us to stand united in the work to
bring mercy and justice to our world.”

What she and her organization seeks most is to bring people
together in the hope of peace and healing, she said.

“Catholic Mobilizing Network hopes that this event can serve
as an example of nonviolence throughout our country and promote a peaceful
transition of administrations,” she said.

While registering online, organizers asked participants
to pledge to a nonviolent and nonpartisan half hour of silence “in the spirit
of love around the inauguration of the president-elect and all the demonstrations
being held throughout the week.”

Groups, such as Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, known as ANSWER, are organizing protests and events on or around Inauguration Day in Washington
to voice their opposition to the incoming president. ANSWER has said it is gathering people for
a Protest at the Inauguration: Stand Against Trump, War, Racism and Inequality
march on the day of the inauguration. On Jan. 21, the nation’s capital will
host the Million Woman March, an event organized largely via Facebook.

Sister Petruziello said her event is not “religious,” nor is
it partisan, and is open to anyone who “wants to bring that peace and love
into the universe, because we need it.”

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: CNS_Rhina.

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