On February 14, 17 students, who attended Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were killed due to a mass shooter. One month later, on Wednesday, March 14, the Brother Rice community, during their theology classes, gathered in the courtyard for a reflection for the 17 students who lost their lives to gun violence.
Gun control is a controversial and political topic present throughout the United States today. Organized from a joint effort between the Advocacy Club and Campus Ministry to focus more on condolences rather than politics, the “walk-up” effort was thought to be a safer, more reflective alternative than a “walk-out” for students. This was inspired by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Provincial Leadership to promote a more prayerful approach because the schools within the Christian Brothers network are Catholic.
On March 14th, in addition to going out with their theology class, students had the option to walk out in the courtyard at 10:00 A.M., so that they could reflect on how violence in America can affect students. When all theology classes prayed at the service, the motto “make me a channel of your peace” was put on cards that were handed out to each student.
Mr. Augustyn gave clarification to what the motto meant: “It is a simple reminder that each of us must be a person of peace if you want to see change in the world. Kept in your wallet, the card can be a simple, but profound, reminder that we must work daily for peace and be a channel for peace to flow out into the world. As the famous saying goes, ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.’ If the card only reminds us to do one act, we have made a difference.”
Junior Tim Novick, who “walked up” on both occasions, said, “I think the ceremony was a great way to show our love and respect to the victims of gun violence and express our support for the families that have lost loved ones. We prayed for the victims and their families and that they receive love and support in this tragic time. We also prayed for peace, love, and respect among all and an end to violence in the world.”
Tim also commented, “Having recently experienced a tragic loss due to gun violence, my opinions have somewhat shifted. Beforehand, I felt that people should be able to own guns in order to protect themselves. However, I now feel that guns are somewhat unnecessary and that stronger restrictions, better records of gun purchases, and better background checks are extremely necessary to prevent further violence. The Brother Rice community made me feel more comfortable with expressing my opinion. The service touched me; it inspired me to be a more peaceful person and be there for my Brother Rice family whenever it needs support in return. I encourage others to be peaceful and spread peace everywhere in an effort to end violence in the world.”
Looking back, at first, I was more focused on walking out, to express my voice against the harsh realities of gun violence, especially through the lens of a student. However, when I experienced the emotional atmosphere, twice, once during my second period theology class, and next, at 10:00 A.M., it opened my eyes that there are two ways to approach a certain situation. Can I use my voice? Yes. Can I reflect on the lives of the 17 students, all with a unique story and background, from a prayerful perspective? Yes. What I have learned is that I can utilize my voice in different ways and at different times; however, there are few times when I can reflect and pray along with my classmates.
As teachers and students, we can all agree that praying for the victims and reflecting about how we fit into the situation can be the first step into make our schools a safer haven.