To pray or to protest? Students at Prep-Villa stay inside for prayer during national walkout day
On a day where students across the country walked out of their schools to protest gun violence, students at Cathedral Prep, and Villa Maria Academy gathered in a special mass Wednesday morning. The decision to keep students inside was met some backlash from a group of Villa grads, who claim the students were being denied their first amendment rights. The school stands by their decision.
Cathedral Prep and Villa Maria Academy took a different approach, to the national walkout.
Mass at both Prep and Villa is nothing unusual.
But during a day where students at schools across the country flocked outside in solidarity, the decision to keep students inside for prayer has not been without controversy
The Joan Mullen Gymnasium was packed with students from both schools as they sat in prayer and remembrance.
“We recognize prayer as being a powerful force, and so we can use that as part of our expression of solidarity with everyone else, and unity as a school.” President of Prep-Villa, Father Scott Jabo said “But solidarity with everybody else on this important issue."
Outside of the Villa Maria Academy, a group that includes former Villa students has formed an organized protest.
Their mission: is to give a voice to the voiceless.
"We're supporting them, we're saying they should have the right to follow their conscience." Benedictine Sister of Erie, Marylou Kownacki said
Both Prep and Villa students were barred from taking part in Wednesday’s national walkout. As the duo of private schools made their decision to pray, instead of protest.
And while the decision received some backlash, school officials felt it was the right move for them.
“Without a doubt, this was the best way that we as a school, particularly could express this, as a Catholic school, that we could present a different way of joining in solidarity and offering our prayers." Jabo said
But not everyone views it that way. As protestors say it curbs the students from making real change.
“Prayer is wonderful, but prayer without action is empty. “ Kownacki said “So these young women, were showing us a way, the young woman and young people are showing us a way. To change the system, you must have direct action, that's all that's going to change the system."
Whether or not you agree with the school's decision. Both sides of the argument have the same goal. And that's to work towards a safer, non-violent world for everyone. And while the methods may be different, the goals are one in the same.
"Praying for the deceased, praying for the victims, praying for even the perpetrator of the violence, as we pray for an end to violence." Jabo said
“It's not happening overnight” Kownacki said “It takes a long, concerted effort. And I think this is just the beginning of the march against gun violence."
Father Jabo says while a few students did attempt to skip the mass, most students obeyed the order.