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In a city that’s nearly broken by gun violence, thousands of people turned out Friday night for a procession through Chicago streets, offering up prayers to “Our Lady of the Broken.”
The event’s centerpiece was a damaged statue of Mary that Chicago radio personality Kevin Matthews found next to a dumpster and holds up as an example of the value of human life, even when it is most “broken.”
Friday evening’s procession, which began after Matthews gave a talk at St. John Cantius church, walked about a mile and a half along Chicago Avenue. It came days after the Memorial Day weekend, when at least 43 people were shot and seven people were killed.
Matthews developed the concept of Our Lady of the Broken when he found a badly damaged statue of Mary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about eight years ago. He had just lost his job and had also been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The statue was covered in trash. Its body was split in half, and the praying hands were chipped. Matthews took it home and put it back together. The crack in the middle is still clearly visible, and the hands remain broken. For Matthews, it’s a symbol: people are in constant need of healing.
“The message of Broken Mary is we’re all broken,” he said. “We’re flawed. But we’re loved.”
Matthews has traveled across the country with Broken Mary, visiting prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, hospitals and hospices, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“She’s gone from a dumpster to being carried on men’s shoulders Friday on a bed of roses with a crown,” he said. “We all can aspire to that hope. We’re not garbage. We’re God’s children.”
The experience of caring for the statue has changed Matthews, Fr. Joshua Caswell, event coordinator and associate pastor St. John Cantius, attested. “He’s more humble, more grateful and more joyful,” the priest said.
Fr. Daniel Brandt, director of Chicago Police Chaplains Ministry, said that the procession “can bring a lot of comfort and peace to a lot of broken people. The city needs a renewed respect for life.”
But the event, titled “There is Hope for the Broken,” was not just about Chicago, but “each of us,” said Fr. Caswell. “It’s about a personal healing for each one of us.”