Students at dozens of Catholic elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago participated in a national walkout March 14, to remember the deadly school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida, one month earlier. The events, most of which took place at 10 a.m., expressed grief for victims and hope for peace. Those organized by Catholic schools included prayers for the victims and for peace in Chicago and across the nation. Cole Yates, a senior at Leo Catholic High School, 7901 S. Sangamon St., joined his classmates in walking to nearby Renaissance Park, near 79th Street and Racine Avenue in the city’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Leo students met students from St. Sabina Academy, 7801 S. Throop St., and Perspectives Charter School in the park. Yates said it was important to participate because “with all of the gun violence that’s going around, we want to stop it and come together as people.” During the event, students gave short witness talks about the need for peace. They carried handmade signs and held red and white balloons with the names of victims written on them. One blue balloon bore the name of slain Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer. When Yates first learned about the Feb. 14 massacre in which 17 students and staff members were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it saddened him. “It made me feel sad that it wasn’t stopped sooner and a lot of parents lost their kids that day. It just made me sad in general. That could have been us and my mom and dad would have been afraid for me too. We need to be more strong on guns.” Fellow Leo senior Khalil Miller was shocked by the shooting, which was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 14, 2012, before the shooter killed himself. “I was shocked but at the same time I wasn’t surprised because our nation hasn’t been sane as of late,” Miller said. “To hear about crazy things on the news, it’s almost common. It was a tragedy. People always say that this won’t happen to you, this won’t happen to me, but you never know.” For Miller, the walkout brings awareness to an issue that Chicago has been facing for a long time. “I honestly think we’re not taking it seriously as a city because of all of the violence that occurs,” he said. Students at Loyola Academy in Wilmette went out to the football field as the school band played “An American Elegy,” a composition dedicated to those who lost their lives at Columbine High School, where two students killed 13 people and then themselves in 1999. Students lined the track as the scoreboard clock counted down from 17 minutes. Each minute, the name and age of one of the Parkland victims was read. Students at Carmel High School in Mundelein processed to their outdoor Mary garden to pray together for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the lives lost in the Parkland shooting. At Mother McAuley High School, 3737 W. 99th St., students made 217 white crosses with names of all school shooting victims since and including the Columbine shooting in 1999. The crosses were placed in the ground outside of the school. At St. Rita High School, 7740 S. Western Ave., students organized Stations of the Cross with a focus on violence prevention and school safety, with the first four stations outdoors. “The main focus of today’s events is to keep the victims of violence in mind,” said senior Connor Cahill, one of the organizers. “But especially we’re going to focus on school safety. ... We want to remind everyone that this is a place where you want to be with all of your Rita brothers and spread that love amongst each other.” The observance included moments of silence for victims of violence and personal reflections from the students. “With all that’s going on in the media and in our country in general, this is a great opportunity for us to put our faith forward,” said senior Louis Cox, another organizer. “This is a way to show our students that you don’t have to necessarily sit back and watch things happen. You can show the world through faith and prayer, and through also using your voice, what you want to be done.” Elementary schools also participated in the observance. At St. Viator School, 4140 W. Addison St., students began their day March 14 with a prayer service for peace in front of the school door. When the opening bell rang at 8 a.m., principal Colleen Brewer led the students in the pledge of allegiance and then a prayer service. Brewer said the school decided to hold its observance at 8 a.m. to allow more parents to participate. Students prayed for peace in the world, in the city and in their school, and recited the Prayer of St. Francis. Then, as the assembled students and parents prayed a decade of the rosary, students took turns helping to plant daffodils in pots. “We wanted to make something beautiful grow,” Brewer said. The service was intended to allow older students to express their concerns about gun violence in a way that would not be too frightening for the preschool students, some as young as 3 years old. “So we can talk about school safety, we can talk about building peace,” Brewer said. Parents who attended said the service — including the decision to hold it outdoors, where anyone in the neighborhood could join in — hit all the right marks. “This school has been part of this community for over 100 years,” said Sara Yost, who has children in first, fourth and fifth grade. “This is another way to show it is part of the community.” The service was an extension of St. Viator’s ongoing activities to build peace, said Nicole Porrato, whose children are in third and fifth grade. “They’re hungry to promote peace,” she said. At St. Helen School, 2347 W. Augusta Blvd., the middle-school students took the lead in planning a walkout. Members of the National Junior Honor Society spent their lunch period on March 13 making posters to display when they walked into the school courtyard the following day. The students focused on promoting peace to make sure all of their messages were appropriate for the youngest students at the school. “We just want peace, we don’t want conflict,” said eighth-grader Denae Cervantes. Eighth-grader Nina Aurelio said she had three goals for walkout: first, to promote peace in the school, in the city and in the world; second, to push for gun control the hope of reducing the number of shootings; and third, to grieve with all the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Eighth-grader Tirria Martin’s poster said, “We Shall Overcome,” with an image of the earth surrounded by children of all races. “We have to find a better solution to stop gun violence and the school shootings,” Tirria said. “The people you see every day, they could just not be there tomorrow.” Stefanik, who teaches middle-school language arts and literature, said the students were disturbed by the Stoneman Douglas shooting, in which seven of the students who were killed were just 14 years old. The school had a grief counselor come in and talk to students following the shooting, Stefanik said. Holding the walkout was another way to help students respond. “I think it’s important to give them the opportunity to express themselves,” she said.