'Part of the healing process': Archbishop Jerome Listecki leads prayer procession along Waukesha Christmas Parade route

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  • Jerome E. Listecki
    Roman Catholic archbishop

Fr. Matthew Widder of the Catholic Community of Waukesha was walking in the Waukesha Christmas Parade when he heard a scream, then saw a vehicle fly past his left side.

"I heard it hit a couple people," he said. "I don't have any images, just the sound is with me."

Six people died after being struck by a driver who plowed his SUV through the parade last Sunday. More than 60 others were injured.

While Widder himself is still healing emotionally, he helped members of the Waukesha community with their healing Sunday afternoon — through a prayer procession led by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki along the parade route.

"It's part of the healing process — to kind of face it again with our shepherd," Widder said.

"It's our community," Listecki told the Journal Sentinel. "It's important when a community suffers loss and suffers injury and pain, you want to do everything you can to let the community know we're together as one."

Over the past week, people from around the world, including Pope Francis, have been offering their support, Listecki said.

More: What we know about the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

More: Waukesha faith leaders emphasize hope, healing in sermons one week after Christmas parade tragedy

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki leads a prayer procession of a group of Catholic Community of Waukesha priests and parishioners while Eleanor Anders carries the church's processional cross Sunday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Waukesha.
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki leads a prayer procession of a group of Catholic Community of Waukesha priests and parishioners while Eleanor Anders carries the church's processional cross Sunday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Waukesha.

'Start the healing process'

On Sunday, dozens gathered inside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which is part of the Catholic Community of Waukesha. That community also includes St. John Neumann, St. Mary and St. William.

"Many of our members were affected by the results of last week, so we decided to come and start the healing process," said attendee Don Thiel.

Don and his wife, Mary Thiel, have been members of the Catholic Community of Waukesha for 35 years.

Listecki said a prayer inside the church, then led those gathered along the parade route, stopping seven times along the way.

During those stops, priests, like Widder, offered prayers for those affected by the tragedy, then the group joined together in The Lord's Prayer and The Hail Mary.

"We pray because we know there's more than this life," Listecki told the Journal Sentinel. "But we're to do our best in making sure that, whatever love of God is present, that we share it."

"It was so beautiful, so touching and moving, everyone praying together and united to help those who are affected," said Peggy Lanser, an adult and family ministry coordinator for the Catholic Community of Waukesha.

At a memorial set up at Veterans Park, Listecki said a special prayer, asking God for his presence, to purify the area where evil was committed and "make that place whole."

"We pray that for the whole Waukesha community, but we pray that also for our nation — to make us whole," Listecki said. "We must turn to the one who can turn anything that's evil into something which is a testimony to God's presence and goodness."

About 25 to 30 people were expected to attend Sunday's procession, Listecki said.

"As you can see, I'd estimate probably 150, maybe 160 people that were here," he said. "I think there was this need to want to do something — just something — whether it's walk, pray together, to do something. I got that sense from the group here."

"It was very moving, just a good reminder of the importance of faith and being together with other members of the congregation to start that healing process," Don Thiel said.

This weekend also marked the start of Advent, a time to "begin again," Widder said.

"Are we all perfectly healed? No. But we begin again," Widder said. "Are we completely whole just yet? No. But we begin again on this road."

Listecki is encouraging people of faith to continue to pray for those who have suffered injury as a result of the incident, and especially, those who have lost their lives.

Contact Hannah Kirby at hannah.kirby@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Archbishop Jerome Listecki leads procession on Waukesha parade route

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