Pope Francis responds to letters from former Robb Elementary students

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Pope Francis responds to letters from former Robb Elementary students

The Vatican responded to letters written by children of Uvalde, Texas following the May 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School that killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers. The letters come from students at Sacred Heart Catholic school in Uvalde, many of whom transferred to the school from Robb Elementary through scholarships provided by Catholic Extension, which also facilitated the letter-writing project. (Letters courtesy of Catholic Extension)
A woman religious teaches students at Sacred Heart School. (Catholic Extension/Juan Guajardo)
A letter from a student to Pope Francis. (Catholic Extension image)
A letter from a student to Pope Francis. (Catholic Extension image)
A letter from a student to Pope Francis. (Catholic Extension image)
A letter from a student to Pope Francis. (Catholic Extension image)
The Vatican response to the students. (Catholic Extension image)
Students at Sacred Heart School. (Catholic Extension/Juan Guajardo)

Fifth grader Noah attended Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and was shot during the May 24 massacre that killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers. He is recovering and now attends Sacred Heart Catholic School, through a scholarship from Catholic Extension. In a letter to Pope Francis, he wrote, “When I started school last week, I felt safe and loved.”

Noah was one of several former Robb Elementary students who now attend Sacred Heart and who wrote letters to Pope Francis that were delivered to the Holy Father by Cardinal Cupich, chancellor of Catholic Extension.

“Thank you for praying for Uvalde. But could you pray for my cousin. He got shot at Robb Elementary School. His name is Sameul. [sic] … P.S. If it wouldn’t be to [sic] much ask if you can come and bless Uvalde,” Madison wrote to the pope. 

Kaylyn, a second grader, asked Pope Francis to pray for her friend Tez. “She was fun. We played on the trampoline. She is with Jesus. I miss her.”

Sister Maria Luisa Aldape, STJ, Sacred Heart’s school librarian and minister at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, came up with the idea to have the students write letters to the pontiff. She was inspired by the book “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World,” which she also read to the students.

“We have invited the children to write to you and share with you their pain and their hopes for the future. Some bear the scars on their flesh and all in their hearts,” Sister Maria Luisa wrote in her cover letter to Pope Francis. She is also the former principal.

Each student in the school wrote a letter to Pope Francis. Those in pre-K who are not writing yet drew pictures for him, explained Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension.

Some of the students who are now fifth graders were in fourth grade last year and in the room with the shooter, Boland said.

On behalf of Pope Francis, Archbishop Edgar Pena Para of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State wrote to the school that, “His Holiness will remember the students, their families and all of those suffering from the recent act of violence in Uvalde.” 

 “We know that it was an exercise that was worth doing,” Boland said. “And it all came from the mind of a sister who has worked at this school for many years, who knows not just the children but she knows the parents and the family. She knows their individual stories. This was seen as an exercise that could contribute to their healing.”

They have begun to heal in a school where they feel safe, he added. Catholic Extension has provided over 30 students with scholarships to the school and is also assisting with the cost for mental health services.

Catholic Extension has a long history of supporting the community of Uvalde. In 1912, the organization provided funds for the construction of Sacred Heart School and also helped to build Sacred Heart Church.

Writing to Pope Francis and receiving a response generated excitement at Sacred Heart School, Boland said.

“You could see the hopefulness in the kids’ words, that in spite of the physical and spiritual and the psychological wounds that they still bear, there were words of hope. It’s so simple sometimes. Children have the ability to strip out all the things that can kind of distract us adults and they can get right to the point,” Boland said. “What you can really tell from the letters is that they are speaking to the pope personally. I think that was so powerful.”

Knowing that the pope personally read their letters and is praying for them is a positive moment for all of the students and the entire community.

“There’s really nobody in Uvalde, whether they were at Robb Elementary School or not, that hasn’t somehow been touched by what happened on May 24, but certainly the students who were in the building that day. So many of them young, impressionable kids,” said Boland.


  • catholic schools
  • pope francis
  • catholic extension
  • mass shooting

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