It was February 14, 2018 when seventeen people, both students and teachers, were shot dead at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen others were wounded, some severely. The 19-year old shooter used an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle that can deliver forty-five rounds per minute. Far from being cowed, or jettisoned into despair, by the senseless murder of their friends, classmates, and teachers, the survivors of this massacre chose courage over fear and resolve over revenge. From their grief and anger emerged a passion that gave voice to conviction. These young people courageously have spoken truth to power, have rallied those who have grown complacent and hopeless in the face of senseless violence, and have united millions in the call for sensible gun control.
On March 24, 2018, young people and not-so-young people gathered throughout the United States and around the world and rose in response to the call of student survivors at Stoneman-Douglas High School to demand stricter gun laws and an end to gun violence. More specifically, they seek to severely restrict the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and ammunition. If the Washington Post is accurate, more than two million Americans participated in the event including those held on the days just before and after. (An interesting footnote is that, according to the National Review, more than 70% of the protestors were women.) Of those two million, 800,000 marched in Washington, DC alone. Thousands of protestors gathered in major cities around the world. Many more thousands gathered in cities throughout the United States.
There were about fifty marches throughout Florida but Tampa Bay, alone, drew about 15,000 people. Among them…and right up in front of the rally…you would have found Sisters Catherine Poirier and Aline Antil. March for Our Lives marches/rallies were held in five New Hampshire cities. It is reported that there were about 4,000 people of all ages who participated in the Concord rally. There, at the heart of the rally, you would find four Sisters of Holy Cross and one Dominican of Hope who was a Sister of Holy Cross for the day for the day. Sister Jacqueline Verville arrived on her own and found a seat in the front row. She and Sisters Claire Coll, Sally Ann Howe, Pauline Maurier, Elaine Poitras, and Mary Schneiders, OP, in the center of the crowd with signs in hand, cheered on the very articulate young people from a number of high schools who spoke with incredible passion and conviction, easily moving people to tears and eliciting supportive chants and cheers. In Concord a small contingent from the National Rifle Association (NRA), led by a flag-bearer carrying the association’s flag, threaded its way peacefully through the crowd.
Catherine and Aline experienced that same passion at the Tampa rally. It was impossible not to feel that passion stirring in your soul as these young prophets of their day called us to conscious action against violence.
Did our participation make a difference? Aline and Catherine found themselves in conversation with a teacher who was taken with the fact that they are Sisters of Holy Cross. We in Concord, sporting our official tee-shirts, also brought positive attention to our mission. We were engaged by a couple with whom we spoke for quite a while; a complete stranger stopped to take our picture; and we got “thumbs-up” as we walked down Main Street after the event. It does make a difference that the Sisters of Holy Cross be recognized for their “solidarity with our children and youth” in the “stand against all forms of violence”.
If you would like to get a virtual experience of the Concord rally click on the first link below. If you’d like to experience the Tampa rally click on the second link below. It will be worth your time.
Elaine Poitras, CSC
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In 2017 we celebrated the 175th Anniversary of the founding of the three feminine branches of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Our hearts overflow with gratitude and humility to the God of our Yesterdays, Todays and Tomorrows, and to our Founder, Basil Moreau, who has entrusted us with the mission of "Liberation through Education."
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