By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published October 3, 2019
FAYETTEVILLE—A group of eight Our Lady of Mercy High School students organized a prayer service and presentation to mark the Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on Sept. 9.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated the national call to pray for peace to coincide with the memorial of St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit priest who ministered to slaves.
The students in the first period Christian outreach class of Megan Trocquet took on the project by researching St. Peter Claver and selecting prayers and a Scripture reading. They conducted man-on-the-street style interviews to quiz their fellow students and teachers about the meaning of the word, “peace.”
“Peace isn’t something you can achieve in one day,” said student Kamryn Days, one of the coordinators of the service.
Dr. Diane Starkovich, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, asked schools to participate in the prayer for peace each year. Typically, Our Lady of Mercy has used the public-address system or television to broadcast a moment of prayer. This year, Principal Bill Dooley decided to gather the student body and teachers for prayer together in the school’s auditorium.
“They learned about being able to put on things for their peers,” said Trocquet, who also guides F.L.A.M.E., the campus student ministry team.
She said the students also put together a trivia game for lunchtime related to St. Peter Claver and the day of prayer for peace. While Trocquet commended all the students for their initiative, she noted that junior Kamal Belizaire emerged as the project leader.
In addition to Belizaire and Days, the other students organizing the service were Gabriella Grissom, Arlene Espino, Samuel Gilstrap, Miriam Moncayo, Yaneth Fonseca and Nia Rachmann.
The service included a reading from Romans, Chapter 12—“Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.”
The students led intercessory prayer including the petition “that the Lord will raise up saints in our times.”
The audience responded with “St. Peter Claver, pray for us.”
A native of Spain, Peter Claver left his homeland in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena, Colombia, and was ordained there in 1615.Cartagena was the center of the slave trade and although slavery had been condemned by Pope Paul III and later Pope Pius IX, it flourished.
St. Peter Claver, in continuing the work of his predecessor, devoted himself to the slaves by giving them food, medicine and comfort. During the four decades of his ministry, Peter Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.
When visiting plantation owners, St. Peter Claver would stay in the slave quarters and often preached in the city square.
The saint’s work exemplified the spirit of unity preached about by St. Paul.
“He believed in it so much,” said Belizaire.
The school’s choir, which is directed by Mark Beno and Franck Launay-Fallasse, sang “Lean on Me” at the prayer service.
The presentation included two videos about the life of Peter Claver, followed by the student-produced video featuring teachers and students explaining what peace means to them.
Answers included calmness, equality and harmony.
When approached by the interview team, Cynthia Launay-Fallase, the school’s director of enrollment, talked about what peace is for her—“It’s being able to sleep with a pure heart and a pure conscience.”