With holy water, songs and prayer, the spot marred last month by the rape of an 85-year-old nun was blessed and rededicated Friday morning as a place of peace.
Church bells rang through the cold air at 11 a.m., as nearly 200 people holding candles and roses gathered for a short prayer service in the parking lot behind St. Titus Church in Aliquippa, a space overlooked by a statue of Mary that is perched on an adjacent hillside.
A month earlier -- nearly to the minute -- the parking lot was the scene of a violent attack.
"This really represents for us every location where somebody is assaulted by a violent act," said Sister Mary Pellegrino, congregational moderator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden.
"We feel that it's important, because of the visibility of how prevalent violence is in our culture, to make equally visible a different response, and a prayerful response and one that helps a person and a community to heal," she said.
A group of sisters led the service, which included the singing of "Amazing Grace" and a peace prayer of St. Francis. Using holy water, the Rev. Paul Householder, pastor of St. Titus, blessed the site of the attack.
It was just before 11:30 a.m. Dec. 13 that the nun, a Sister of St. Joseph, was attacked and sexually assaulted as she was walking to the recycling bins in the parking lot, police said. She was initially unable to speak to police due to the injuries to her jaw, but she wrote on a piece of paper that she had been raped.
She later underwent surgery at Allegheny General Hospital for a dislocated jaw.
The nun was not in attendance at the prayer service Friday, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.
Sister Mary said her fellow sister remains on a "journey of recovery."
"Sister's doing very well," Sister Mary said. "She's physically recovering, and in the process of recovering in other ways. She's extremely grateful for the prayers and support. She is taking all those prayers in and passing them on to all victims of violence throughout the world."
Indeed, Don Couch, assistant chief for the Aliquippa Police Department, said he met with the sister earlier this week.
"One of the things that really got me, she said that after this happened, she felt an actual shower of prayers come down on her, and what she did is she asked God to take those prayers away from her and give them to all the other violent assault victims in the world," he said.
The prayers continued Friday, for both the nun, her alleged attacker and his family and victims of violence everywhere.
Anthony J. Berosh, the district attorney for Beaver County, attended the service and said the turnout showed that "in the end, faith will win out, not violence."
Police quickly made an arrest in the case last month. Andrew Clarence Bullock, 19, of Aliquippa faces charges including felony rape, aggravated assault and sexual assault and misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Mr. Bullock was also charged Dec. 13 with possession of marijuana and providing false identification to a law enforcement officer. He remains in the Beaver County Jail, unable to post bond set at $50,000.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. First Published January 10, 2014 12:15 PM