A cross section of students from the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Catholic schools filled St. Gabriel Church to celebrate Catholic Schools Week Jan. 30. The Mass here was one of hundreds of celebrations held locally and around the nation in honor of an education system that fosters service and faith in addition to academic rigor.
Throughout this week, students are engaging in activities surrounding the celebration, with a special emphasis on service work. They’re collecting donations for the needy and crafting Valentine’s for the elderly.
The centerpiece of the week was Tuesday’s Mass. But that liturgy was tempered by a tragedy that unfolded a week earlier. During the prayers of the faithful, the students and faculty prayed for the families affected by gun violence at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky.
Two 15-year-old children were killed and more than a dozen others were injured by a gun-wielding 15-year-old boy on Jan. 23 in the small Western Kentucky community.
The Catholic Schools Week celebration in Texas was likely similarly affected. A day before the Benton, Ky., attack, a 16-year-old boy shot and injured a 15-year-old girl in an Italy, Texas, school.
While we celebrate Catholic schools this week, we must also acknowledge these tragedies.
The truth is, Catholic schools are not immune to gun violence. A cursory review of school shootings over the last 50 or so years is enough to tell you that Catholic schools can and have been affected by such tragedy.
But Catholic schools have an advantage — they can foster prayer in the face of tragedy and empower students to help prevent it. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville are preparing their students to examine the teachings of the church and its magisterium and encouraging them to take their convictions to the public square.
For years, the U.S. bishops have called upon lawmakers to enact common sense laws that would safeguard our most vulnerable people.
“We used to call these heinous acts ‘unimaginable,’ ” said Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich in a Jan. 23 statement. “But we don’t need to imagine them anymore, because they happen every single day in America. And why? … Because we lack a health care system and culture that adequately supports those who need psychological treatment.”
He called it “all too easy” in the United States “to carry out mass shootings with high-powered artillery designed to kill human beings.”
“Every day we fail to hold our elected officials accountable for our nation’s weak gun-safety laws, we fail our children and condemn them to a life marked by violence that could have been prevented,” Cardinal Cupich said. “How many children have to die before we find the political will to do something about it?”
The cardinal’s question should ring in our ears. Nothing has been done to effectively turn this tide. If adults continue to fumble these issues, our children may need to save themselves.
Several Catholic schools are giving student groups hands on experience, taking them to Frankfort to advocate for a variety of issues. These children are being formed as faithful citizens to examine issues, take a position grounded in the Gospel and effect change.
Perhaps they can be an example to the rest of us, their elders, who ought to respond to the church’s call to take action on these issues.
For the children and educators lost to school gun violence, we pray:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.