In March 2016, ahead of much uncertainty around the Republican National Convention to be hosted in Cleveland, citizens braced themselves for the predicted discord. While gathering with friends, Sister Rita Petruziello of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Rocky River, had an idea: “Why don’t we circle the city with love?” That day, on the feast of St. Joseph, a movement was born.
A few short months later, 3,000 individuals stood on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge to gather in the name of love. Hand in hand, strangers-turned-friends formed a circle and stood in silence as witnesses, supporters and bearers of peace. The movement, “spiritual in nature and proven by science” as Sister Rita defines it, serves to “put love into the energy field in the universe.”
Karen Komondor, director of organizational development at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, had worked with Sister Rita prior to the movement’s creation. When she learned of her friend’s vision, she decided to participate.
“After the first Circle the City [with Love] event on the bridge, I decided this was something I really had a pull to get involved,” Komondor recalls. “At that time, everyone knew that this was a movement that just couldn’t stop on the bridge. There was too much energy.”
Komondor graciously accepted the chairperson role passed on to her from Sister Rita for the 4th Annual Circle the City with Love planned for October 20, 2019, in Cleveland’s Public Square from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free to the public, but a $10 donation is suggested. Registration is not required, although movement organizers request that participants let them know if they will attend the event here: https://www.circlecitywithlove.com/contact-us.
As for movement attendees, “We’ve had all ages, families, single folks – it’s a completely diverse crowd,” says Komondor. “It is a non-partisan, non-religious [event] and is just a completely open, welcoming peace and love gathering.”
While 30 minutes will be dedicated to the movement’s signature circle of silence, the remainder of the event will provide live entertainment: a DJ spinning only uplifting, love-themed lyrics; t-shirts available on a first-come, first-served basis; and an opportunity to connect with fellow participants.
Since its inception, Circle the City with Love has expanded to 28 states, along with Italy, Australia, and Ireland as cities have adopted Sister Rita’s model for their own peaceful demonstrations. This summer, events have been held throughout Northeast Ohio, leading up to the culminating event in October. Plans are also being developed to travel to Washington, D.C. in September 2020 before the presidential election. Regardless of location, each and every circle is guided by the vision, mission, and pledge of Circle the City with Love.
“We’re referring to it more as a movement rather than an event,” said Komondor. “We’re doing circles wherever we can whenever the opportunity arises. The goal is to just keep the movement going.”
Thankfully for the future of the movement, love is proving to be contagious.
“Everyone has different reactions, but it is just so positive,” Komondor says. “Once people experience it, they want to come back.”