‘Hear Our Cry’ March takes first step in cross-country quest against poverty

Online Staff Report

Shelter Care Ministries gave its executive director a ceremonious send-off Tuesday, April 1, as she departed on the first leg of a 756-mile walk to Washington, D.C., where she hopes to draw attention to the plight of the poverty-stricken.

With Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) at her side and the Rockford Lutheran High School drum line at her back, Lou Ness left the nonprofit agency she runs en route to Belvidere, the first overnight stay in a trek expected to last two months. Supporters sang the hymn “We Are Marching in the Line of God,” and Ness was presented with a mayoral proclamation, a Certificate of Recognition from the Illinois Senate and a letter from U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos , D-Ill., to carry with her to the nation’s capital.

These official documents will travel in the same bag with handwritten stories from families who are homeless here in Rockford and others I will collect along the way,” said Ness, a 65-year-old Episcopal deacon and grandmother with a chronic bone marrow disease. “I leave this morning on a journey which began as a quiet message to me from God, but which has grown into the mission of compassionate people across Rockford to make sure the voices of the least among us are heard.”

Mayor Morrissey, the school drum line and many of the supporters who gathered for the breakfast bon voyage accompanied Ness from the Jubilee Center at Emmanuel Episcopal Church to Rockford City Hall, three-quarters of a mile away. From there, a smaller group — including the owner of a Florida art gallery who flew in the day before — continued on the 13.5-mile hike to Belvidere.

Before Ness crosses into Indiana, the Hear Our Cry March will be officially commissioned by The Ret. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Bishop Lee was scheduled to present Ness with a letter of support in an outdoor blessing at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 8, at St. James Cathedral on East Huron Street.

Ness plans to sleep in places of worship in five states. Stops in the first week include the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple in Woodstock, where she will lead the Friday morning meditation, and the First Congregational Church in Crystal Lake, where several parishioners will join Ness on the road to Barrington after she preaches at their Saturday evening service.

Anyone who wishes to participate as the Hear Our Cry March progresses should call (815) 964-5520 to make connection arrangements.

Posted April 9, 2014

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