On Wednesday, March 14, one month to the day after the shooting incident that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students at several of the high schools of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend came together to remember the 17 victims and demonstrate support for school safety initiatives.
At 10 a.m., students, faculty and staff took 17 minutes out of their day – one minute for each victim – to remember and honor the victims of the Parkland shooting and to protest gun violence. While students of other schools came together on the lawns or stadiums of their campuses to stand together in silence, others, including local Catholic schools, came together in prayer.
In a statement provided by Saint Joseph High School, South Bend, to parents, Principal Susan Richter noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops teaches about how “the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred,” and that, “Our students want to honor their fellow peers, their brothers and sisters in Christ, who lost their lives in school shootings.”
“All students and staff must feel safe while attending school,” she continued. “This is one of the reasons expressed by our students for taking action [on] Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the tragedy experienced by the students and staff at [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.”
After talking with student leaders and the administrative team, it was decided that Saint Joseph students and staff would be allowed the option of “walking out” for 17 minutes. Student leaders created a video inviting everyone to participate, and a prayer service was held by student leaders at which $1 donations were collected for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims fund.
At Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne, about 200 students participated in a prayer service at the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, where they kneeled in silence to pray for the victims of the Parkland shooting and signed a banner of condolences. All students were also invited to come together in the school courtyard for 17 minutes of prayer and reflection.
Bishop Dwenger High School, also in Fort Wayne, allowed students to step out into the hallways at 10 a.m. for silent prayer in honor of the victims. Father Jonathan Norton, school chaplain, and candle bearers processed through the school with the Blessed Sacrament, and students knelt or genuflected when it passed by. The names of the victims were read over the public-address system, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and prayers from the rosary. All-day Eucharistic adoration also took place in the Queen of All Saints Chapel for students, faculty and staff.
One Bishop Dwenger parent said in response to the walkout that, “Although they didn’t ‘walk out’ of the building, that the demonstration was a beautiful, peaceful, spiritual way to show [they] care about what happened. Hopefully, the students felt like they were a part of the huge, important event.”
“Pope Francis calls us to go to the periphery,” noted Bishop Dwenger Principal Jason Schiffli, also in a letter to parents explaining the rationale for the school’s cooperation with calls for a walkout. “Where are the peripheries in our families and in our schools?” he asked. “Who are those family members and class mates who are on the margins?
“I am grateful we can channel our concerns for others into a prayerful event that reconfirms our Christian commitment to peace, love, and respect for all,” Schiffli said. “It is through these simple exercises of our faith that we come together, bonded by our Catholic identity, opening our hearts to others. His love for us should challenge and inspire us to reach out in love to those around us, in our families, in our schools and in our community.”
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