TOMS RIVER – March 14 marks the one month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As tribute, Donovan Catholic High School held a prayer service assembly for students and staff to honor the 17 victims of the incident and spread some hope in the wake of school safety scares, locally and nationally.
The service began with a prayer, led by Donovan student Cristiaan Dailey, who is also Student Council President.
“Each of the 17 lives claimed had plans for later than day…beyond this, each of the lives claimed had plans for the future, and in a matter of seconds their future was gone,” read Dailey. “Kids and parents deserve the security of knowing that they will return home safely after leaving for school.”
Following the opening prayer, Reverend Scott Shaffer, Director at Donovan Catholic, and student Bella Villanueva performed a meaningful skit, reading from the perspective of victims of Parkland, a father and a daughter.
“I thought it was a scheduled drill, until I heard the screams and saw the blood,” read Villanueva, in character.
“For God’s sake, I dropped her off at school never wondering if she’d be safe,” read Shaffer.
The scene enacted a phone call and reunion between father and daughter, as she is trapped inside the school during the shooting. Villanueva’s character in the skit called for action, protests, gun and mental health reform, pleading to “turn up the volume” on how we respond to incidents like these. The tone of the scene evolved from fear to understanding, as the two characters came to the realization that the power of prayer is used to listen to “wisdom beyond our own.”
The resounding refrain from this scene was, “Everyone talks; no one listens.”
Dailey then read the names and ages of each of the 17 victims of Parkland in honor of their memories. Gabby, a fellow student, lit one candle for each victim as the names were called. The lighting of the candles was meant to signify the victim’s legacy living on, according to Dailey.
Reverend Shaffer prepared a speech for the event about the importance of forgiveness in the event of tragedy, calling for the need to pray, forgive, and turn to God.
“As people of faith…we can’t just react, we can’t just be ruled by our emotions,” said Shaffer. “What we’re doing here today is the most that we can do; we show our solidarity with those around us.”
Shaffer presented an original song written by the Campus Ministry entitled “The Most We Can Do” to emphasize his point.
The prayer service assembly was an idea thought up by the students, like Dailey, two or three days following the incident at Stoneman Douglas, said Shaffer. The students went to the Campus Ministry for support for their idea and it finally came to fruition on the one month anniversary of the tragic events.
“We have the advantage [of praying] and that’s what we do,” said Shaffer on Donovan Catholic’s service compared to that of other schools.
The service was originally planned to be outside as a walk around the fields, said Shaffer, but the plan was altered accounting for the weather and high winds. Had they chosen to do it outside, they would’ve had the police present, he added.
“We’re very proud of our students,” said Shaffer.