June 26, 2020

Indianapolis streets ‘covered in prayer’ during Soldiers for Peace Rosary Walk

Matt Evans, left in green shirt, leads a prayer outside of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis on June 17 before leading a group of about 60 people on a rosary walk for peace around the capital city. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Matt Evans, left in green shirt, leads a prayer outside of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis on June 17 before leading a group of about 60 people on a rosary walk for peace around the capital city. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

As Matt Evans watched the destructive riots take place in Indianapolis on May 29-31, “It kind of left a really bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “It’s the city I grew up in. I felt helpless watching it.”

The member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis shared the story with a large group of people gathered near the steps of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in the capital city on the evening of June 17. The name of the church was significant to his story and the reason for the gathering.

Evans went on to explain that as he walked and prayed the rosary—his normal exercise regimen—the week prior, he got an idea: Why not have Catholics walk the streets of Indianapolis praying the rosary for peace in the city?

That idea launched the June 17 event, which he called Soldiers for Peace Rosary Walk.

He said the idea was inspired by Father Richard Heilman, a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wis., who started the United States Grace Force. The priest walks the streets of Madison praying a rosary for peace, “and he’s pushing for other cities to cover their streets in prayer,” said Evans.

“Once I got that idea in my head, I kept thinking about it,” he continued. He called his friend and fellow Catholic Eric Slaughter, “the one who really organized this event,” he noted.

Using social media, they spread the word of the event: a 4.5-mile rosary walk from Holy Rosary following the path of the city’s original mile-square boundaries, praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet for peace in Indianapolis.

“I just saw [the event] in an email the other day,” said Joannie Johnson of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. “I called Matt. ... He said he was afraid he might be the only one [participating].”

Instead, approximately 60 people gathered for the event. They came from parishes around the city and beyond, including Mary Patout, a member of Holy Spirit Parish at Geist in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. She came with friends from St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“I almost didn’t [come] because of fear,” she said. “Then I decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me. That’s exactly what the evil one wants us to do is to be afraid. This [rosary walk for peace] is a very good reason to come, and I’m very glad I did it. I’m not in the least bit afraid. And we’ve got our weapons to protect us!” she said with a smile, holding up her rosary.

Also joining in the walk were Clare and Micah Nantz, both 28, of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, which sustained damage during the late May riots. The couple, expecting their third child later this year, alternated carrying their sons Joel, 4, and John Paul, 1, and pushing them in a stroller during the walk.

“It shows [the boys] we care about prayer, that prayer is powerful, and that they can be a part of it even if they don’t understand everything,” Micah said of choosing to bring their children on the 4.5-mile walk.

Clare called the event “powerful and peaceful, and a good way to support the fight against racial injustice.”

A van carrying chilled bottled water followed the group. Joannie and her husband Larry Johnson, both 80, also found respite in the van after walking some distance.

“I told Matt I didn’t think we’d be able to walk the whole way, but he told us to come and just do whatever we could,” said Joannie.

She and her husband “believe wholeheartedly” in what Evans and Slaughter are seeking to accomplish.

“This cause [peacefully opposing racial injustice] needs to have some positive action taken on it, something in good faith and not violent, to show that we’re in support of the people who are having a hard time,” said Joannie. “And it’s a long time coming.”

Larry agreed, noting the need for the Catholic Church “to be proactive.”

“Talk is cheap,” he said. “Things like this get something done. [The May protests] were very sincere and with good cause, and the Catholic Church should help keep it a peaceful protest. Things like this help.”

Except for the voices of those praying the rosary, the city was quiet on the evening of June 17.

“Praised be to God, we didn’t encounter any major conflicts,” said Evans as the group again gathered around the steps of Holy Rosary to conclude the event with prayer.

The goal moving forward is for folks to walk and pray on downtown streets as they can, he explained.

“All you have to do is walk and pray,” Evans said. “No bull horn, no sign, no chanting. Just simply hold your rosary. That’s the only sign we need.”

For now, Evans and Slaughter ask that participants notify them when a street has been “covered in prayer.” The two hope that at some point an interactive map can be put online so participants can mark the streets themselves.

But the effort doesn’t stop with inner-city roads.

“A lot of you don’t live around downtown,” Evans acknowledged. “So try to do a rosary walk around your neighborhood and in your local communities.

“If we can do that, if we can start a prayer revolution with the rosary and Our Lady, I think we can start to turn things around a bit.”

(For more information, to report a prayed-upon street or to offer to create an interactive online map, contact Matt Evans at mattevans74@hotmail.com, or Eric Slaughter at ericslaughter@sbcglobal.net.)

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