Offer prayers for Hennepin steel workers, plant

HENNEPIN — To seek help for the 200 steel workers who have been laid off from the ArcelorMittal Hennepin facility in recent months, church and community leaders went right to the top — and it wasn’t the CEO of the multinational corporation.

“Our purpose here today is to ask for the divine assistance upon all of our people. When we are in trouble, and when we’re not, our faith assures us that we can rely on our God to help us,” said Terry Judd of the Hennepin Business and Betterment Association at a prayer service held July 22 at the gates of the steel finishing plant.

Among those offering prayers at the noon gathering were Father Patrick DeMeulemeester, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Hennepin and Sacred Heart Parish, Granville; Julie Enzenberger, a consecrated virgin of the Diocese of Peoria who serves at St. Patrick’s; and Rev. Brian Caughlin, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Hennepin. Enzenberger said Judd had suggested the prayer service and asked her to pull together area clergy to lead it.

Statements of support also came from Mayor Kevin Coleman of Hennepin, Mayor Keith Cain of Princeton, and Jay McCracken, superintendent of Putnam County Schools. Adding their voices were Rep. Frank Mautino of Illinois’s 76th District, which includes Putnam County, and Carol Merna, chief of staff for the Peoria office of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock.

Plans to close the Hennepin plant, which has been in operation under four different owners since 1967, were announced by ArcelorMittal last December. Layoffs began in February and the doors closed in mid-July.

Since then, the workers and members of the surrounding communities have maintained an informal vigil at the gates of the plant to offer information to passersby and “stand guard.”

Enzenberger assured those gathered that they were being remembered in prayer by people far beyond the Illinois Valley.

“On Facebook (an online social networking site) today there are churches in Peoria that are praying at noon that couldn’t be here personally so they’re with us spiritually,” she said. “There are actually people from New Mexico and California and Florida who are also praying for us and from all over the country. They are here with us in spirit.”

Father DeMeulemeester read from Psalm 34, which is rich in praise for God, who watches over his people, gives refuge to the poor, and delivers them from fear.

Rev. Caughlin asked that “those not at work will soon find employment, for those who are employed to understand that they indeed have a wonderful gift, and for those who have much to help those who have little that we might live into what Christ has called us to be — disciples of that same Christ.”

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