Walking in single file, and in silence, a line of more than 200 people stretched for nearly two blocks as participants in the first Silent Walk for Peace made their way west in the 300 block of East Ninth Street early Wednesday evening.

The Benedictines for Peace of Erie launched the initiative, which will be a monthly event, as a way to extinguish fear, hatred and divisiveness nationwide and worldwide. 

“I think we were all just feeling the angst of the multiple situations that we’re all facing globally with the earth, with our country, our nation and everything,” Benedictine Sister Anne McCarthy said. “We heard about this and immediately it sparked an idea that it would be helpful and that now might be the right time.”

Participants, including Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico, gathered at a playground adjacent to the Saint Benedict Center at 345 East Ninth St.

At 7 p.m., the Benedictines led residents on a half-hour walk through neighborhoods along East Ninth and East 10th streets before finishing the walk at the Saint Benedict Center playground.

 “My hope is that each one of us, myself included, comes away feeling growing peace, that each one of us are about growing peace and that we continue that process, and that this reminds us that it’s our work,” McCarthy said.

The walks are modeled on similar walks that began in 2006 in Coral Springs, Florida.

“The goals are to make people aware that there is a need for more silence in our world. Not silence that alienates, but silence that brings us toward inner peace, and realize that we have something to contribute, something to offer, and we can make a difference,” said Kathleen Kutz, a member of the Benedictines for Peace committee. “We bring more peace to the world through peaceful thoughts, words and actions, and ultimately, world peace can only happen through our efforts to inner peace.”

Participants walked slowly and silently together through neighborhoods on East Ninth and East 10th streets inhabited by many Benedictine ministries: the Saint Benedict Education Center, Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Inner City Neighborhood Art House, the Saint Benedict Community Center, and Benetvision and Monasteries of the Heart.

 “If you look at the present situation in our world today, all the violence, the wars, the hate crimes, people want to know how are we going to achieve peace,” Kutz said. “It is through inner peace when we realize we are completely interconnected. If I am peaceful, I can generate that peace through my words, my actions, my thoughts.”

The next Silent Walk for Peace is scheduled for Sept. 21 — the International Day of Peace — from 7 to 7:30 p.m. at the East Avenue boat launch at the foot of East Avenue.

Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680 or by email. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ETNleonardi. 

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