National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Praying for New Orleans, one block at a time

 | 
An area of downtown New Orleans looks like a war zone following fires, looting and destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in this Sept. 5, 2005, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

NEW ORLEANS -- Millie Campbell slipped the transmission into reverse and backed her blue Chevrolet away from her spotless brick home. "Oh God," she said, "we thank you for the blood of Jesus."

Then the 76-year-old cranked the wheel straight, put the car into drive, and headed slowly up Frenchmen Street, one hand on the wheel, the other turned upward toward the heavens.

"Touch this block in the name of Jesus," she continued.

Her front-seat companion, Betty Minor, 69, filled in the gaps between Campbell's appeals. "Hallelujah ... Glory, glory."

A couple of times a week, on no particular schedule, Campbell, Minor and a half-dozen others drive slowly around assigned neighborhoods, doing just this.

Campbell covers the 7th Ward. Minor covers the 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans.

screen-shot_FB-video-promo-11.21.jpgOur Nov. 21-Dec. 5 edition is out. Take a look inside. Not a subscriber? Become one today!

And they pray. They pray for an end to the scourge of murders sapping the city -- 199 last year, and 17 or so on the streets Campbell drove last week.
Sometimes, driver and passenger join hands, bouncing slowly over the pothole-filled streets of their neighborhood.

"Cover your children, Father God," Minor says. "In the name of Jesus."

The car turns onto A.P Tureaud Boulevard. "Hope is not in the dollar," Campbell says. "Hope is in you, Christ Jesus."

The pair drive past stoop sitters, past Tony's Historical Parakeet Restaurant and Bar, past the blighted houses and freshly rebuilt homes in neighborhoods undergoing checkerboard recoveries.

"Touch Touro Street, Lord, in the name of Jesus."

Campbell and Minor's group consists of six women and one man. They are from different churches, bound together by an ad hoc prayer group that meets twice a month at Campbell's house. This is strictly their project.

They are among thousands of people off the radar, unorganized, unsponsored, praying daily for the safety of New Orleans.

Usually the people in Campbell's group go solo. Sometimes it's a special trip. But sometimes they pray while doing something else, like going out for groceries. The trips can be long or short. Each person prays however he or she is moved to. Campbell and her friends have been doing this for about six weeks.

Across the city, thousands of Catholics formally pray for peace in the city at each Sunday Mass, reciting a special anti-crime petition at the request of Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

Other clergy lead congregations in other ways, and run youth ministries, literacy programs, sports programs, anything to help tamp down crime.

But Campbell and her friends have decided the most powerful thing they can do is drive the city's streets and pray, as the community does its business, unaware, around them.

"We got a problem, but we don't know how to solve it," Campbell insists.

"Well, we do," she says, meaning herself, Minor and their friends. "We're taking it to the Spirit."

Bruce Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

November 21-December 5, 2014

11-21-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.