By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published September 9, 2016
ATLANTA—The students of the Catholic schools located within the Archdiocese of Atlanta paused for a time of prayer on Friday, Sept. 9, at the request of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. At schools inside and beyond the metro Atlanta area they simultaneously prayed at 10 a.m., storming heaven with fervent pleas for peace in the world.
September 9 was recently designated as a National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the goal of nurturing civil and honest dialogue.
Archbishop Gregory asked that the people in the north and central Georgia Catholic community come together in prayer on this day, as the foundation for future dialogue and healing. He celebrated a special Mass on Sept. 9 at the Cathedral of Christ the King, which incorporated a tribute to the first responders of local police and fire departments, a commemoration of the feast day of St. Peter Claver, and a remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Snapshots of prayers
At Holy Redeemer School, Johns Creek, the staff and students paused during their normal school day on three occasions to “pray for peace in our school, our community, our country and around the world.” In observance of the anniversary of 9/11, various students and faculty members took turns leading the school in prayer and song.
The St. Catherine of Siena, Kennesaw, preschool students and faculty joined the elementary school community in church as they all prayed for peace. The prayer was led by the eighth-grade students and the pastor, Father Neil Dhabliwala, and the singing was led by Teri Khan and the Angel Choir.
Students at St. Mary’s School, Rome, colored images of the cross and prayed across all of the grades for peace in the world, including praying the Our Father in Spanish.
Holy Spirit Prep School paused to join Archbishop Gregory’s call to pray for peace. The Lower School, K-6, prayed a decade of the rosary, with the fifth- and sixth-graders leading the rest of the school over the intercom. Upper School students gathered in the gym to pray their own brief prayer for peace.
At Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville, the prayer service for the school was organized by the Christian Outreach Class. The service included a reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, a video remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, stories of heroes demonstrating Christian virtues from current terror attacks and intercessions praying for peace in this country. Students researched the stories, wrote opening and closing prayers and planned the outline for the prayer service on their own. The entire school was invited to participate in the 10-minute prayer service at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9.
Sixth-grade students at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta, opened the school-wide prayer service for peace by processing in to “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” Deacon Bob Hauert presided over the prayer service and reminded the students that all can spread the message of peace and justice at home and at school. He told the students that it all starts with a simple smile, sitting with someone different at lunch, or having a conversation with family around the dinner table on what it means to help heal those who are hurt. The students closed the service singing, “Peace Is Flowing Like a River.”
An eternal blue candle burns
Students, faculty, staff and parents at Hapeville’s St. John the Evangelist School lifted their communal voice with prayers for peace at a service at 10 a.m. Parents and others were invited to attend, and those who could not were invited to pause at 10 a.m. and offer prayers at their place of work.
The focal point of the prayer service was their blue candle, the eternal flame, which remains lit in the main hall of the school throughout each school day. This candle holds special significance in that it has been a part of their school community since the nation’s tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, and has remained lit since that day. The candle is also used during special prayer services where it serves as a beacon of God’s presence and a light of peace and hope within the community.
With the light of Christ at the center of their prayer service, the St. John the Evangelist school community meditated on the origin of peace. Alexandra Azzarello, director of development, shared the words of the service: “Peace begins in our hearts and radiates out into our families, our communities, our nation and our world. We need peace in every arena. Peace begins with each of us. When we have peace within, we experience the heart of Jesus and a harmony where we are better able to recognize the dignity and worth of every human life.”
The prayer service included a reading from St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-15) followed by intercessory prayers asking “our loving God to hear us and give us peace.” They concluded the prayer service with the Prayer for Peace in Our Communities and raised their voices in song to the “Prayer of St. Francis.”
Azzarello said, “At the close of our prayer service, we were renewed with a spirit of commitment in a world that needs peace.”
Other schools participating included St. Thomas More School, Decatur, St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Our Lady of the Assumption School, Atlanta, Christ the King School, Atlanta, Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone, and parish preschools. Staff of the Office of Catholic Schools and Grace Scholars paused for prayer in the St. Dominic Chapel of the Chancery in Smyrna. Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, students gathered for a school Mass and prayer for peace on Tuesday, Sept. 13, since the school was closed on Sept. 9.