17 Lives Remembered at Prayer Service

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March 14th, thousands of students across the country walked out of class to protest gun violence. That morning at St. Mary’s Dominican High School, the community gathered for 17 minutes of prayer and remembrance of the 17 lives lost February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Student Preacher Ella Cheramie gave the opening address.

Martin Luther King Jr taught that the “moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” As Dominicans, we are taught to be a clear voice for peace and justice. We seek to pursue truth, with Veritas being our motto. We must share and apply truth through our thoughts, words, studies, and actions. We are here today in solidarity, being one with those lost in the senseless massacre in Parkland and the families of the victims. We are the youth of our generation. We must recognize we are more than just children. We are called by not only the Archdiocese of New Orleans but by God, to use our easily influenced voices for good and for peace. We are taught our Dominican values at a young age and yet, every year, I know I hear something in a new light. I look through the lens from a different circumstance or situation.

Today, I call upon all my Dominican Sisters to reflect and to seek understanding of the circumstances, through study. To pray for our brothers and sisters we have lost. To look around at our beautiful community and be grateful for their lives and existence. And to do all you can to serve and promote peace in our world. As woman of faith, let us take the first step in being here for our brothers and sisters. These 17 minutes of prayer are in commemoration for the 17 lives lost. They are more than a number.  Those victims were just like us.  As faithful Dominicans we must protect and promote the sanctity of life. Tragedies like this can sometimes cause fear and worry, but we must remember to find comfort and seek peace in any uneasy situation, in God.  Before our service continues, I leave you with Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Student preachers led the assembly. Students processed carrying lighted candles, paired with 17 students who carried hand-made signs bearing the names of those who died in Parkland. The Hail Mary was recited after each name was read.

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Scott Beigel, 35

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Luke Hoyer, 15

Aaron Feis, 37

Jamie Guttenberg, 14

Christopher Hixon, 49

Cara Loughran, 14

Gina Montalto, 14

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14

Meadow Pollack, 18

Helena Ramsay, 17

Alexander Schachter, 14

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

As students stood on the stage holding the signs, student preacher Abigail Haydel asked everyone to “remember the names of the people who lost their lives, and always pray for peace in our world, and in our school communities.” She then invited everyone to join in Our Family Prayer.

Following the prayer, Abigail continued,

Dear God, our Father,

I ask You to give the victims’ families and community peace and comfort. Let’s also pray for the soul of the shooter, that he may find You and turn to You. Help the families to rely on You, God, in this difficult time in their lives and let them remember that You are always holding their hand tight and close to Your heart.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Dominican Bell rang 17 times and students dispersed in silence.


St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s prayer and remembrance service was featured in the Global Sisters Report/A project of  National Catholic Reporter. Click here for article, “US Catholic sisters plan participation in March For Our Lives.”