November 15, 2017

Alumna Bonnie Steele behind monthly “Come Together" prayer service and peace walks

Bonnie Steele's daughter, Jamie Steele '18, giving her reflection in the sanctuary at St. Bridget’s. (Bonnie and her husband are seated front right.) ''We loved the fact that non-believers, agnostics and atheists came,'' said Father Paul Jarvis, of the month Come Toghether event. Photo courtesy of Father Paul Jarvis.

When Bonnie Steele, an alumna of St. Kate’s theology program and mother of four Katies, received a call from Father Paul Jarvis of St. Bridget Catholic Church last summer, little did she know their conversation would spark a movement embraced by other Catholics like herself and Christians of different Church traditions. The first “Come Together” gathering for peace and for an end to violence drew 300 people.

“We didn’t know if we’d get 10 people!” said Steele, director of pastoral ministry at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Maple Grove and a parishioner at St. Bridget before moving to the west suburbs.

Since then, Come Together — a monthly event filled with scripture, reflection, music and conversation, followed by a neighborhood walk — has expanded to 13 congregations across the Twin Cities. Among them: Zion Baptist Church, Church of the Ascension, New Creation Church, Diamond Lake Lutheran Church, St. Peter AME, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Christ English Lutheran, Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, Luther Seminary and Lutheran Social Services.

On Sunday, November 19, 4–6 p.m. the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet will join that group, opening its chapel adjacent to Carondelet Center; all are welcome. (details below)

Come Together, explained Steele, was born out of Father Paul, the senior associate pastor at St. Bridget, wanting to respond to the seemingly daily newspaper headlines about violence occurring around his north Minneapolis church as well as nearby neighborhoods, including the then-recent Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights.

In winter 2017, Come Together — with Bonnie Steele '07 in sunglasses — included ''peace caroling'' in the Rondo neighborhood. “We not only blessed, but we received blessings from neighbors,” said Father Jarvis. Photo courtesy of Fr. Jarvis.

“Father Paul had never been in a parish in the urban core when he joined St. Bridget’s,” said Steele, who grew up in the north side. “He also had a congregation from the dominant culture that was surrounded by a community comprised largely of black or African American people. We talked about faith-based ways the parish could respond. His concerns really boiled down to: Do we recoil in fear at every incident or do we come out of our homes and be proactive bringing healing, love and hope; living into our call as a Christian community?”

Steele challenged Father Paul to open up his church, to open the doors to everyone who was experiencing pain and trauma due to violence — including drive-by shootings and domestic assaults — and encouraged everyone who attended, parishioners and visitors alike, to walk in the neighborhood. “North Minneapolis, for better or worse, is seen as a crime ridden and dangerous community, often neglected, without seeing the talent, goodness and giftedness of the members of the community," Steele said. "Come Together facilitates an opportunity for people who do not often interact to meet one another, to listen to our common stories, and to pray for healing, reconciliation and transformation.”

In March, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota presented the Come Together founders with a Movement of Hope award for inspiring “a movement of hope for the health, safety and wellbeing of people in Minnesota.”

A family affair

Steele’s four children — all of whom are Katies (Nicole Steele ’07, Second Major Cert ’11; Ashley Steele ’13; Jamie Steele ’18 and Sean Michael MAOL certificate ’19 — have been involved in this peace prayer session and walk from the start. This past summer, for instance, Jamie Steele gave a reflection on racism and hope at a Come Together gathering in St. Bridget’s.

In fact, even the matriarch of this family — Bonnie Steele’s mother, who was born on White Earth Reservation and lives close to St. Bridget’s Church — is an regular participant. She’s known to pray in Ojibwe with other Ojibwe tribal members from various communities who show up at Come Together.

“To be honest, if it weren't for the Steeles, Come Together would not have gotten off the ground,” said Father Jarvis. “This ecumenical prayer service for peace is the brain-child and heart-child of a Katie: Bonnie Steele… These occasions provide people a sacred place to relate experiences with violence, as well as an opportunity to act, to show support and to come to see ‘the other’ as part of we.”

Since the first event, held on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Come Together has drawn people from all walks of life — from parents and neighbors of children who have been murdered to doctors, attorneys and police officers, Steele noted.

So, what can visitors expect at the next gathering this Sunday, November 19?

“People can expect a place where they can come be with others who have a desire to heal violence they are experiencing in their community,” said Steele, who is also a CSJ Consociate candidate. “What they can take away is there is hope and we can come together to create the kind of world we want to live in.”

More info

Sunday, November 19
Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet host
4–6 p.m.
Our Lady of The Presentation Chapel, adjacent to Carondelet Center
1880 Randolph Ave., St. Paul

If you can't attend it, mark your calendar for the next monthly event:

Sunday, December 10
Messiah Lutheran Church host
4–6 p.m.
Center for Changing Lives
2400 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis

For future events or to host one, follow the COME TOGETHER Facebook page.

by Pauline Oo