St. Sabina parishioners march to nearby murder site during mass

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St Sabina Church 1210 W. 78th place, Where Father Michael Pfleger, instead of preaching a sermon, took the men of the church outside to stand against the violence, stopping at a parking lot where a young man was killed last week at 79th & Loomis. Sunday, March 4, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

At three hours and 20 minutes, it was a very long mass even by the standards of the Rev. Michael Pfleger, whose fiery sermons can get quite lengthy.

But this Sunday’s Mass went overtime because the activist South Side priest interrupted it to lead his St. Sabina parishioners on a march through the streets to confront gang violence that has led to recent deaths in the area.

“Jesus Christ has done all he’s gonna do about the devil until his return,” Pfleger preached during his sermon. “Don’t look to Jesus Christ to come out here and settle violence on the street. He’s done all he can do and he’s turned it over to us.”

The priest conceded that interrupting a Mass was unusual. “But radical times demand radical measures,” said Pfleger before leading about 150 men out of the packed church.

Hundreds of women stayed behind to pray, while children attended a non-violence workshop.

Outside the church, holding a wireless microphone transmitting to speakers mounted atop an SUV, Pfleger led chants directed at local gang members: “Stop the guns, stop the violence, lay down your weapons.”

The group marched two blocks to a White Castle restaurant at 79th and Loomis where a 22-year-old man had been shot and killed in the parking lot on Wednesday.

“That’s the second person I’ve seen laying on the ground that’s been killed in the last year,” said Pfleger, who had been called to the scene shortly after the shooting.

Pfleger went inside the restaurant and shoved a flier under the bulletproof glass to the store manager. The flier urged people with information on the shootings to call police and offered rewards to those providing information leading to confiscation of illegal weapons.

In a vacant lot across the street, Pfleger planted a wooden cross emblazoned with the words “Stop the Shooting.”

Then the group marched off to a nearby gas station Pfleger said was a gang hangout.

“This ain’t your corner, this is God’s corner,” Pfleger angrily shouted.” We take it back in the name of Jesus.”

The march continued, with teenage boys on either side of the street slipping fliers under windshield wipers and running up porches to stuff mailboxes.

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