LITTLE FALLS, N.J. – The JPIC committee at Holy Angels Parish here were practically giddy with excitement on Palm Sunday as almost 3000 letters, addressed to legislators and the United Nations, were signed to encourage a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. In addition, signatures from 800 adults and 250 children were added to petitions asking the media to focus on the Darfur situation.
Holy Angels parishioners chose Darfur as the parish Lenten focus this year. During Lent, parishioners attended lectures, showings of the Darfur Diaries documentary, and attended a rally. On Palm Sunday, as parishioners entered the church parking lot, they could hardly miss the sign that read “Not on our watch — Darfur.” The highlight of the weekend, however, was guest homilist, Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, who is on the board of trustees of the Save Darfur Coalition.
Fr. Michael, who has spent time in Darfur, outlined the general situation and told personal stories of the people who live there. As he spoke of an 11-year-old and her mother both of whom had been raped by the Janjeweed militia, he walked up and down the church aisle looking people right in the eye, making it nearly impossible to leave the church with a clear conscience without signing a letter and/or petition.
Pastor Robert Sandoz said the staff had debated whether to schedule the letter signing for Palm Sunday. Though there would be large numbers of people, but it was uncertain whether they would take the time to stay after such a long Mass. The answer was clearly “yes.”
Several parishioners took copies of the letters and media petitions to circulate at work and school. Palm Sunday, it seems, was not the end of Holy Angels’ effort to save the people of Darfur — only a beginning.
— Mary Louise is a Holy Angels parishioner who contributes frequently to the church’s newsletter The Messenger.