The shots rang out at 2 PM, at a time when the kids were still in school. I didn’t hear them in my office but several staff were outside or nearby and did hear the gunshots. They ran out to help attend to the two young men, age 16 and age 18 hit by bullets. Both survived, thank God. The violence, however, also impacted others. The shooting took place near Seward elementary school, and inside, second graders, children ages 7 and 8, heard the gunshots. The teacher gathered them around and spoke to them calmly. Then, 30 minutes later, when school was let out, and the emergency vehicles could be seen down the block, the teacher stayed outside to make sure the youngsters were accompanied by parents, or safely in their homes.
As the teacher stood outside afterwards, a companion turned to the teacher and said, “I don’t understand how you could live in such a neighborhood.” The teacher felt angry. And as the incident was related to me, I asked “What did the anger do to you or for you?” Without hesitation, the teacher said, “It made me stronger, …stronger in hope.”
That response gave me some insight about these days of Lent we are living. As we approach a time when we will walk the Via Crucis through our neighborhood on Good Friday, I wonder about the experience of violence during the time of Jesus. Surely, the children of Jesus’ time must have experienced such violence. Perhaps they saw the man carry the cross, perhaps they witness the crucifixion. How did adults respond? Many ran away, many did not want to understand or even to know that such violence took place.
But then there were those who experienced the anger that moves a person to hope. These are the people who witnessed the resurrection and lived with a conviction to live to change the community to be a better place, a more peaceful and unified place, a place of justice.
There are many people preparing the Via Crucis this year, and many who are reflecting on the violence. We should listen to their experiences. It is even helpful to talk to the 16 year old who is back in school. When his Principal saw him he said, “I know, I know what you are going to say, and I learned my lesson – I will be in school where I should have been in the first place [when the shooting took place].” I hope we learn our lesson as well.
Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF