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'The hand of God is on you': Fr Michael Pfleger to youth choir after crash caused by armed assailants

No children were injured in Saturday's accident, from which several armed individuals fled the scene on Chicago's South Side.

Fr Michael Pfleger has addressed last weekend’s car accident in Chicago that injured four adults accompanying the Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir on Saturday morning. Multiple armed assailants fled the scene after running a red light in a stolen vehicle, hitting a church van, and causing a pileup.

“When you see a mangled car and a torn-up bus full of babies, you can do nothing but just tell God ‘I lift my hands in total praise to a God who shows himself over and over and over and over,’” Pfleger said during his homily on Sunday morning at St. Sabina, which has seen several young members lost to gun violence in recent years.

Pfleger noted that three of the adults injured in the bus crash, who suffered “bruises and back spasms,” were present for the Mass. No children were injured in the accident but were reportedly shaken by the experience, which occurred during the church’s annual Day of Service in the community, featuring more than 300 volunteers.

The choir was on its way to a juvenile detention facility, the Illinois Youth Center, “to minister in song, spoken word, words of encouragement” with the St. Sabina worship team (the Levites), according to youth choir co-director Sam Williams Jr. in a social media post on the day of the accident.

“God probably blocked them fools from doing something way worse to someone else… We WILL get back to that prison to finish the work we started out to do,” he added.

On Sunday, following an extended note of encouragement from Pfleger while standing before the congregation, the youth choir rendered a popular song from their repertoire, A. Jeffrey LaValley’s “Hallelujah, Salvation, and Glory.” They had also sung the tune on Saturday evening during a prayer session after the crash, according to Pfleger.

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” he told them on Sunday during the Mass.

In addition to their work in the community, the Selah choir regularly sings for Masses at St. Sabina and recorded an eponymous gospel album in 2018—one of the only records of its kind in the Catholic music space. They recently ministered in song for a televised Christmas toy drive at a local TV station in December and were noted earlier this summer by CBS Chicago for their performance in the 2023 Chicago Gospel Fest. 

The choir, whose members range from age 6 to 18, is also fundraising for an upcoming trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where they have been invited to perform and experience the local culture.

Kellie Bartoli of the Chicago Police Department said on Tuesday morning that no arrests had yet been made in the case concerning Saturday’s accident, which took place roughly a mile from St. Sabina on the city’s South Side. The owner of the SUV used by the assailants has been determined, however.

“The Dodge Durango had been reported stolen outside of Chicago… Detectives are investigating,” the CPD said.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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