Home / News / Interfaith blessing event still draws attention to Cal-Sag

Interfaith blessing event still draws attention to Cal-Sag

The Blessing of the Waters, held annually at the Waterfall Park on the Blue Island, will return in full force on Saturday, after the quiet celebration last year due to the coronavirus epidemic, and history has a special meaning.

“Water is extremely important to us. We chose this date because: World Water Week “To celebrate clean water around the world,” said community activist Tom Shepherd, who helped launch the event in 2006. “The river touches many communities as it passes through.”

He said the blessing “gets people out and makes them aware of how important the environment and clean water are.”

“We think that people should learn about this fact, accept it, and participate in a clean environment, do their part to clean the environment, pray for the environment (then) even if it doesn’t really clean it up,” Shepherd said. “This is a good fraternal way for people to come together one day of the year because water is good for people, animals and plants.”

Shepherd spent 20 years with the Southeast Environmental Task Force in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, where he was a close friend and Episcopal priest St. He persuaded Reverend Rodney Reinhart of Joseph/St. He applied to Aidan’s Episcopal Church on Blue Island to be a member of the task force board.

“We’re involved in tackling dirty coal, landfills… the whole industry, and the dirty stuff that’s happening there,” he said. “When Rod came on board, he brought spirituality with him, and we used to pray about certain things.”

In 2006 they were touring the fields by the Cal-Sag Canal and decided to hold a water consecration ceremony attended by about a dozen people. The event moved to Waterfall Park the following year.

The park has a special role in the canal; It helps to clean the water with the help of four pumps.

“By pumping the water up and down the waterfall, it adds oxygen to the water,” Shepherd said. It cleans and refreshes it a bit.”

He said officials from the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, who run the site, often attend the blessing.

Following Reinhart’s death in 2015, Shepherd invited Reverend MaryBeth Ingberg of the Immanuel United Church of Christ in Evergreen Park to lead the consecration. The two had worked together on Southsiders for Peace – she said she had known him for 25 years – and Ingberg had also participated in previous blessings.

“My first year was the first anniversary of Reverend Rod’s passing,” Ingberg said, adding that more and more people were coming to the event and helping out by making donations, setting up tents, and bringing food and water.

The event, which will start at 15:00 on Saturday, was designed to represent many perspectives.

“My interpretations as officers include Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Native American traditions that call us to love and protect water and the Earth,” he explained.

He said the ceremony usually lasts for an hour, but people usually stay there afterward “to have a drink and enjoy the conversation.”

He said that the blessing did a lot of research for him and tried to keep it for 10-12 minutes. As a member of SWIFT (Southwest Interfaith Team), which promotes dialogue between Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious communities, she wanted to be inclusive.

“There is a quote from the Qur’an there. The Dalai Lama has four Buddhist responses to the challenges of caring for the environment, which I named after them,” Ingberg said.

It also includes an endorsement of America’s Unitarian Universalists called the Water Community Ritual for the Administration of Justice.

The Mudcats Dixieland Jazz Orchestra will perform on Saturday as part of Blessing of the Waters.  The event is supported by the Blue Island City and the Blue Island Chamber of Commerce.

The Mudcats Dixieland Jazz Orchestra will play when people arrive at the park and during the fellowship period after the show.

Blue Island Mayor Fred Bilotto has a few words to say before the consecration. He said he had been involved in the event for years, as he had known Shepherd for a long time and was a friend of Reinhart’s.

“Before I became mayor, I was a member of the city council of the region where the waterfall is located,” he said.

“It’s a nice meeting to see friends and people who know the value of water and what it means for society. We are unique as we have so much history with MWRD. We had the canal back in the I&M days, and we had the locks before they moved to Lockport.”

The mayor considers Blue Island to have “the most beautiful waterfall park” among those built by MWRD.

“It was built with a purpose (in the 1990s). There are underground pipes and a pump building. The entire 9-acre park has a system to pump water out and through the waterfall, which gives the water more life.”

After the celebration, participants are invited to dip small tree branches in a bucket of water from the canal and share their own little blessing.

“I think that’s my favorite part, where different people can say things in their own way, thank God and talk about the environment and clean water,” Shepherd said.

He added that Reinhart played cleats in all four directions and said something. “He was a good entertainer,” he said.

Ingberg said he “had a great time” doing the blessing and enjoyed hearing the short prayers of people dipping a bucket and shaking it over the spillway. She also loves seeing the diversity of people attending and how the event grows each year with attendees, vendors and donors.

“I get a lot of positive and surprising responses,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Wow, that really made sense. That was really great.” I commission them to do this part of their life and bring out the positivity.”

Ingberg said he designed his part of the program to be positive to motivate people to do advocacy work and look for long-term effects.

“I think it helps society realize how important water is, not just for drinking or human use, but for nature itself, for our environment, and for some dangerous things that we need to be really mindful of and actively involved in. protecting.”

Melinda Moore is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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