Catholic school students choose prayer over walk-outs

Aaron Lambert

On March 14, Denver’s Catholic school students honored the 17 victims of the Parkland, Fla. shooting not by rising to their feet in protest, but by dropping to their knees in prayer.

In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida, Youth EMPOWER, a branch of young activists affiliated with the Women’s March, declared that March 14 would be a National Walk-Out Day in protest of gun violence. This declaration became a viral social media campaign that reached virtually high school all students in the nation, and mainstream media coverage on the day reported countless schools participating.

Students in the Archdiocese of Denver took a different approach. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Elías Moo, superintendent of Denver’s Catholic Schools, encouraged pastors and principals to hold a 17-minute prayer service at their schools for the conversion of hearts and to intercede for the souls of those who have died in lieu of a 17-minute walk-out protest.

“We believe the first and most important response can and should be to unite in prayer,” Moo said. “At the core of what our country is confronted with today is a great spiritual battle, a battle for the soul of our society and nation.”

(Photos provided by Holy Family High School)

Among the schools that held a prayer service was Holy Family High School in Broomfield. Holy Family chaplain Father Joe McLagan led staff, students and parents in a rosary that morning.

Sophie Schmid, a sophomore at Holy Family, said of the prayer service that she “felt part of a greater spiritual movement for safety and peace.”

In a period of history where the national dialogue in regard to gun control revolves primarily around policy, Father McLagan referred to a Feb. 15 statement issued by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who said that “…tighter gun restrictions – as vital and urgent as they now are – will not solve the problem. We’ve lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result.”

“Our dignity contains such a reality to it that we need to learn how to forgive, we need to learn how to grow in holiness and learn that our salvation doesn’t come from policy but from the Lord,” Father McLagan said. “A policy is only as good as the virtues in the people. If you don’t have a virtuous people, what expects your policy to be virtuous? It starts with being on our knees and then going into action, not acting without going to our knees.”

COMING UP: Saint John Institute hosts inaugural graduation

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Regina Ramsey was tired of hearing complaints about what’s wrong with the world and what needs to change within the Catholic Church. She wanted to act.

“I decided that I could either join the people talking about the changes that needed to be made or I could do something about it,” said Ramsey.

That’s when she turned to the Saint John Institute — an MBA program run by the Congregation of Saint John centered on the New Evangelization that helps students develop their gifts to become great leaders in the Church.

“An MBA through Saint John Institute seemed to be the right fit because it combined business knowledge with deep spiritual formation,” said Ramsey.

After graduating from the Saint John Institute with fellow student Brianne Schulze on April 15 — the first students to graduate from the program — Ramsey looks forward to centering her daily life on her Catholic faith. She hopes to one day help non-profits utilize business structures to help them with long-term success.

The Saint John Institute isn’t your average MBA program.

“Our program is different from other MBA programs because of the focus on developing an authentic prayer life and spirituality,” said Father Francis Therese Kratter, the program’s chaplain.

Father Nathan Cromley, president of the Saint John Institute, hands Brianne Schulze her diploma at the inaugural graduation ceremony for the institute April 15. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“We all know deep down that prayer is what makes our lives fruitful, but we rarely devote the time we know we should to this most important activity,” he said.

The Saint John Institute shapes students through two years of monastic prayer and study, said Father Kratter. He believes the success of current and future students steams from a foundation of prayer.

Students like Schulze were attracted to the program because of that spiritual formation.

“I saw the MBA as a necessary challenge to help me gain the practical business skills I needed to be able to evangelize more effectively through my art,” she said.

Schulze is an artist whose goal was to develop her skills and use them to glorify God.

“Art and beauty point to the eternal,” she said, “and I feel I have a responsibility in creating work that does that — work that gives people an opportunity to encounter Christ through the transcendent power of beauty.”

Schulze was deeply inspired by the Brothers of Saint John, who form the students both academically and spiritually.

“They challenged me in my faith and have helped lead me to Christ in a deeper way than I ever thought possible,” said Schulze.

For more information on the Saint John Institute, visit www.saintjohninstitute.org.