Students at D.C. Catholic School Use Stations of the Cross to Mourn Parkland Victims, Pray for End to Gun Violence
Today, in a nationwide demonstration, thousands of students across the country walked out of school at 10am to pay tribute to the 17 victims of the Parkland school shooting that occurred one month ago. This demonstration also served as a protest against gun violence. More than 2,800 National School Walkout demonstrations were held throughout the country. To learn more about the protests in each time zone, you can check out our comprehensive recap.
In Washington, D.C., Carolyn Phenicie reports the following:
Many people dismiss politicians’ thoughts and prayers following school shootings as empty gestures. However, for the young students at St. Anthony Catholic School, prayer was regarded as a meaningful way to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting during a day of national mourning and protest.
Seventh-grader Patrick Cottman explained, "Through prayer, we express our empathy for the victims and all those who witnessed the tragic event. We also pray for their families, hoping they can find peace during this difficult time."
The prayer service was designed to address the issue in an age-appropriate manner for elementary and middle school students, according to Principal Michael Thomasian. He also mentioned that even though the students at St. Anthony are young, they are still aware of current events and had heard about the shooting, even if their parents did not discuss it directly with them.
The students emphasized the need for prayers not only for the 17 Parkland victims, but also for all schools. Sixth-grader Summer Colbert-Nelson stressed, "The occurrence of tragedies is not limited to one school in Florida; it happens in schools all over the world. People are getting hurt and harmed because of one individual’s bad choice to take out his anger on others."
Despite being aware of the rough details of the shooting, the St. Anthony students admitted that they had not discussed it extensively in class. They were, however, aware of the major policy response of arming teachers, an idea they all opposed.
Colbert-Nelson expressed gratitude that there have been no incidents at St. Anthony, stating, "I trust that our teachers, parents, and principal will keep us safe from any harm. I’m just happy that our school has not experienced such tragedies."
While St. Anthony educates students from preschool, only students in third through eighth grade participated in the half-hour prayer service. The service began with the procession of 17 candles, each representing a Parkland victim, while their names were read aloud. The students then prayed at the Stations of the Cross.
During the procession, a student carrying a cross, accompanied by two others holding candles, journeyed around the sanctuary, stopping at relief images depicting Christ’s last day. These images portray significant moments, from Pontius Pilate’s condemnation to Jesus’s burial. The Stations of the Cross are traditionally observed during Lent, particularly on Good Friday.
At each stop, a student liturgist read a short passage connecting that part of Jesus’s journey with an aspect of school safety. This was followed by a prayer. For example, at the fourth station, where Jesus meets his mother Mary, the student liturgist emphasized that schools should be safe above all else, and parents should not have to fear sending their children to school.
The students prayed for an end to senseless violence that has claimed the lives of too many children and for the parents who have lost their children.
At the seventh station, when Jesus falls a second time, students reflected on how many times the country has attempted to implement changes following incidents of gun violence, only to give up when lawmakers fail and public attention diminishes.
While the St. Anthony students held their prayer service, older students from the D.C. area protested at the Capitol, demanding stricter gun laws. Despite concerns that their activism may not be taken seriously by adults, the students urged each other not to give up. Sixth-grader Landry Barbour said, "If we continue to march every day, I believe that adults will begin to listen to us more and more."
In conclusion, today’s nationwide demonstration exhibited the determination of students to pay tribute to the Parkland victims and protest against gun violence. While some may question the impact of their activism, these young individuals remain committed to raising their voices for change.
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