Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2018 / 14:09 pm
On Wednesday, thousands of students throughout the United States walked out of classrooms as part of National School Walkout, a demonstration calling for safer schools and increased gun control, in the wake of the February high school shooting that left 17 Florida students dead.
Many of the walkouts were planned to last 17 minutes, in honor of each of the students who were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. Many Catholic schools used the day as a chance to call their students to prayer, either in addition to or instead of a walkout.
Schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were asked to hold 17 minutes of prayer in solidarity with shooting victims and the walkouts. The prayer services included the rosary, as well as the archdiocesan prayer against violence, murder and racism, which is recited regularly at Masses in the region.
“We didn’t hear of any schools or students participating (in the walk-out), but we were hearing from our school communities, ‘What could we do, what could we offer in support of lessening gun violence?’” Dr. RaeNell Houston, superintendent of Catholic Schools in New Orleans, told the Clarion Herald.
“Our children deserve to be safe in our school communities,” Houston added. “But we felt intentional, dedicated prayer would yield more fruitful results than a walkout. I am a witness to how God answers prayer. And we felt our time was best utilized and our statement would be bold if we dedicated that 17 minutes of prayer on behalf of the Florida victims and our country and for the safety of our children.”
Cardinal Ritter College Prep, a Catholic urban high school in St. Louis, participated in an organized school event.
Students left campus at 9:30 am and walked to nearby St. Francis Xavier Church on the campus of St. Louis University. Ronnie Robinson, the father of a recent graduate, was invited to participate in the march. Robinson and his family have lost two sons to gun violence in recent years.
After a period of prayer and silence, students returned to their classrooms to discuss the events of the day, to review the school’s active shooter policy, and to resume classes.
Elias Mendoza, principal of St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento, California sent a memo to parents in early March, in anticipation of the walkouts, noting that school officials recognized both the students concerns and as well as their own obligation as school employees to remain politically neutral.