For Catholic schools, prayer has always been a powerful tool, and it is one they put to use as an alternative to the National School Walkout on March 14.
“As a Catholic school, we believe that prayer is extremely powerful, and that change can come about through prayer,” said Collin Kerr, a senior at Bishop England High School in Charleston.
The student-led events at five high schools in the diocese offered up prayer and remembrance for all the victims of mass shootings at schools, with particular attention to the 17 recent victims at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Since that tragedy, two more students were shot on March 20 at a Maryland school, and students have stepped up not only prayer, but also other ways to take action in their own communities.
Youth spoke about reaching out to people on the peripheries, people that are hurting, with 17 acts of kindness, as a tribute to the 17 who died in Florida.
Students were also encouraged to educate themselves about school shootings and gun violence and to take part in finding solutions in an informed manner, guided by Catholic social teachings.
Here’s a look at what students did at their individual schools:
Bishop England, Charleston: Students prayed the rosary while walking silently outside to the school courtyard, where they held a tribute to those killed at Stoneman Douglas.
Going forward, youth pledged to commit 17 acts of kindness in memory of the 17 people who died at the Florida school. Students said they are simple actions, such as lending a hand to someone in need, or taking time to talk to another who is feeling sad.
Cardinal Newman, Columbia: During the student-led “Day of Kindness and a Walkout to Worship”, youth were asked to raise up their minds and hearts in prayer for all victims of school shootings and encouraged to step up and offer 17 kindnesses in memory of the recent victims.
They focused on how to make an impact each day, by seeking out those on the peripheries, and reaching out in friendship to students they don’t know. Suggestions for 17 acts of kindness include inviting someone who may be sitting alone to sit at your lunch table, or greeting people in the hallway you don’t normally talk to.
John Paul II, Ridgeland: Youth held a short prayer service in remembrance of all victims of school violence, especially remembering and praying for the 17 individuals killed in Florida on Feb. 14.
“As Catholics, human dignity is one of the four main pillars of the Church’s social teachings and, we hope to storm the heavens with our prayers,” said Walt Dupre, principal. “Our fellow high schools in the Diocese of Charleston are also supporting and calling attention to the fact that each life is precious, and every individual is entitled to the right of human dignity bestowed by God.”
St. Anne, Rock Hill: The school’s Girl Up Club led a Mass dedicated to ending all forms of violence across the world. The students were encouraged to follow in Jesus’ renunciation of violence, the practice of nonviolence, the embodiment of peace, and resistance to injustice.
“With the intention for the end to violence, we also called to mind the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. We dedicated Mass to all the victims, the victims’ families, as well as to all victims of gun-related violence,” said Alex Riginos, club president.
Students also had the option of sending advocacy cards to elected officials asking for “comprehensive legislation that works to prevent gun-related violence.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic, Greenville: Students led a service to stand against violence in schools and show solidarity with the victims at Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We wanted to join this national moment in a safe and powerful way that would create an impact,” said Maegan White, a junior who coordinated the event. “It was extremely important to us to incorporate our Christian faith into … our support.”
The students read the names and a short biography of the 17 victims, led a prayer to end violence, and recognized the victims of each U.S. school shooting since Columbine in 1999.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Myrtle Beach: Youth started the day with 17 Hail Marys led by students, followed by the celebration of Mass and prayers for the victims. The school community also prayed for the intercession of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on this day as it was the day she was received into the Church.
Top image, Miscellany/Doug Deas: Students stand quietly in the courtyard at Bishop England High School to honor the 17 recent school shooting victims and pray for peace.