In the wake of yet another mass shooting at an American School, the leadership of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the Unites States - Canada Province joins its voice to those of the surviving students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and people of good will from all faiths across this country, who are demanding an end to the legislative paralysis that prevent common sense gun control from being enacted in this country.
As educators responsible for the safety of students in the 24 Network of Sacred Heart Schools in the U.S. and Canada, we share in a special way the anguish of the teachers, administrators and parents in schools where the unthinkable has happened. As an organization committed to “revealing God’s love in the heart of the world,” we struggle to help students reconcile this senseless loss of life with a compassion that is deep enough and brave enough to seek solutions to the brokenness that causes such violence.
We agree with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops when, in support of a ban on assault weapons, they said, “We must respond. Violence – in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and the world – is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.”
With Pope Francis, we call for our legislators to overcome partisan differences and “go out and meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust and hope around you.” (Pope Francis, January 1, 2014)
A message to her school community from Sister Melanie A. Guste, RSCJ, Ph.D., headmistress of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, The Rosary, in New Orleans
Yesterday morning, I awoke to the sweet sound of birds chirping melodiously outside of my window. What a wonderful gift to open one's eyes and to BE ALIVE! Gratitude is my prayer, with simple praise for the depth and breadth of God's love that we are offered in such abundance each day. Quietly, I began to cry.
With all of you, my heart aches for the tragic loss of life to violence at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The reality of deep fractures in the human spirit is cause for our attention and action. But, what is our response? What is the invitation rising from the ashes of this experience?
In a very basic way, we can all be reminded of the critical importance of our school safety protocols and measures for prevention. As a school community, each one of us must exercise our daily responsibility in this regard whenever we are on campus. All of us can be agents for care and caution by taking small actions, where necessary, to enhance our efforts. Drilling for various types of emergencies, guards, gates, cameras, LobbyGuard - all of these measures and more are important ways that we support school safety.
In another way, I believe that this tragedy invites us to look deeply into our own hearts and to attend to our own need for healing. Asking God to heal your heart of its hurts and to make you a peacemaker will transform each of your relationships. With open hearts, we can let love, not fear, encircle us, guide us and identify us. Together, we are a force and a fortress.
In the wake of their grief, parents of children lost to violence implore others to look at their children each day and to tell them that they love them. We do not have to wait for our pain to lead us to this truth: we all need to know the incarnate love of God! Each of us can give this to one another in so many simple ways: offering a listening ear, stopping what we are doing to help someone, looking into someone's eyes with true care or having a meaningful conversation.
After all, I believe that our enduring school mission "to make known the love of God through the heart of Jesus" offers us a clear pathway. Through this portal, Saint Madeleine Sophie knew we would truly transform the world. I believe this, and I suspect that you do the same as parents, faculty, staff and alumnae of the school. In Lent, I invite each of us to pray for the grace we need to truly become this transformational force for life, for beauty and for love in the world.
Resources in the Aftermath of the Parkland Shooting
(Courtesy of the National Association of Independent Schools, NAIS)
Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Helping Kids After a Shooting (American School Counselor Association)
Explaining the News to Our Kids (Common Sense Media)
Helping Children Cope with Frightening News (Child Mind Institute)
Helping Children Cope with Terrorism - Tips for Families and Educators (National Association of School Psychologists)