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Mitchell: Clergywoman-cop plans citywide prayer vigil on violence

Shelisa Jones, an ordained minister and Chicago police officer, is forming a prayer vigil
at Soldier Field in response to the violence in the city. | Leslie Adkins / Sun-Times

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTShelisa Jones believes in miracles.

Not the sort of miracles long-suffering sports fans pray for. I’m talking about epic feats like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Jones, a veteran Chicago Police officer and ordained minister, has plopped down $50,000 — almost all of her own money or money she has raised through her not-for-profit foundation — to rent Soldier Field for a citywide prayer vigil Oct. 10.

“I was watching the news and saw a little baby got shot, and I started crying and saying to God: What can I do?” Jones told me.

“God told me to bring all the faith leaders together and people — whether believers or non-believers — to cry out for this nation because crime is happening everywhere,” she said.

She chose Soldier Field because there hasn’t been a faith-based event there since the football stadium was rebuilt in 2002.

But while stories about the breakup of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get millions of clicks, Jones hasn’t been able to get the word out about the prayer vigil despite using social media.

OPINION

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTShe opened a GofundMe account in June but got meager donations. At that point, Jones said God told her if she were going to ask other people for donations, she would have to contribute first.

So she said “$38,000 came from me and $12,000 from a non-profit that I started to help young women who are getting out of prison.”

She acknowledges that she started late but said it took a long time to secure a date.

“They thought I was joking when I said I wanted to rent Soldier Field,” she said.

Although Jones wanted the event to be free, she has had to sell $10 tickets through Ticketmaster to raise the $400,000 needed to pay for the venue. She is still a long, long, long, way from reaching her goal.

OK, I can sense your disbelief.

After all, when people start talking about what God told them to do, we tend to look at them as if they are suffering from a mental illness.

But in these extraordinary times, who can say whom God will use?

Jones seems up for the challenge.

In her 22 years on the force, she has been on both sides of the violence issue.

In 2006, she was suspended for nine months from the department when the Chicago Police Board ruled she made false reports in the non-fatal off-duty shooting of Jerome Michael Sajna. Jones denied the allegations.

“The city paid this man $50,000 even though he was driving illegally and threatening my life, and five years later I was off work without pay trying to get my job back,” Jones said.

Jones filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in 1997 alleging that white officers attacked her and another black female police officer at the Harrison District police station. She blames the police “code of silence” for her loss.

“I was just off probation, and I thought it was hazing,” Jones said. “I realized then that, when my brothers came in and said they were beaten up by cops, there was truth to what they were saying.”

She now holds two master’s degrees, one from the Lutheran School of Theology and one from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Yet her credentials haven’t been enough to open closed doors.

“I have reached out to just about everyone. I give them the information and they always ask who else is committed,” Jones said.

“I say God is and I don’t get a call back. Someone even told me that I couldn’t pass out fliers on church grounds,” she said.

And we wonder why it seems that evil has taken over.

If you believe in miracles, too, learn more about the “Cry Out for Peace” prayer vigil at www.cryout2016.com.

Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST