Sarasota | Catholic schools across the Diocese of Venice prayed for peace for 17 minutes on March 14, while at the same time public school students across the nation walked out to demand a safer environment in the wake of the tragic shooting where 17 students and faculty were gunned down in Parkland.
Dr. Kristy Swol, Director of Education for the Diocese, said the schools had the prayer services for peace in lieu of participation in the walkout. “In this way, we hold true to our values of praying for peace — as Christ has the ability to change the hearts of those set on violence — and to remember the fallen of Parkland.”
St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy joined together for their prayer service in the Zazarino Center, where St. Martha Principal Siobhan Young explained why they were gathered. “Today, we are praying for peace throughout our world, asking God for peace and safety for our whole human family,” Young began. “When it is hard for us to find peace in hearts, peace in our neighborhoods, peace in our world, we turn to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to show us the way.”
The students were then asked to take time to reflect on Jesus’ message of peace. “Let us think about how Jesus called us to live His message, by praying for peace, and working for peace, and becoming people who are peacemakers, as sons and daughters of God,” Young concluded.
Rebecca Reynolds, St. Mary Principal, then called for the lighting of a peace candle, which remained lit throughout the rest of the prayer service. After hearing readings from the Gospel, prayer intentions and music, 17 candles were brought forward one at a time by students representing each grade level of the two schools and placed on the table with the peace candle. As each pair of students came forward, Reynolds read the name of a victim of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Similar prayer services took place at each of the Diocesan schools. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, the students prayed and then were encouraged to reflect the love of Christ with their peers and in their community so as to end the cycle of violence.