Columbine High School

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

4/27/99

 

            A year ago, after the school shootings in Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oregon, we were all alarmed.  I preached one Sunday on the problem of violence in our culture.  The cult of evil, the easy access to guns, the absent parents, the vile entertainment and the spirit of vengeance that is abroad in our society all contribute to making these things possible.

            A lady in our parish who is a trained counselor came forward and offered to host a listening and training session for junior high school students and their parents.  She thought that it could help us identify possibly violent situations and tell our young people what they could do about them.  It seemed like a heaven sent idea.  We scheduled a Monday night meeting at the beginning of the school year.   We put a notice in the bulletin.  I made announcements form the pulpit.  No one came.

            We figured that it had just been a bad night.  So we tried again.

            This time we sent out notices as well as the other means of publicity.  We got four families and their children. 

            Considering that we have at least 100 families with teenage children in the parish, it was a disappointing showing.

            I chalked it up to a "pastoral learning experience" and thought no more about it.  No more, that is, until Columbine High School.  Like everyone else I watched in horror as a student massacre unfolded live and in color before our eyes.

            The media did the usual interviews.  They all sounded like the previous shootings.  We have heard it before.   "This is such a nice community."  "This is such a lovely school."  "We never would have dreamed that it would happen here."  "Who would have thought it would happen in such a nice place?"  "We moved here for the schools."

            It is all true.  They are nice communities.  Just like mine. 

            We have a good school system, clean and orderly.  We have middle class families in a semi-rural area.  We have hard working parents with jobs in the city and long commutes.  Both parents working long hours and children home alone for several hours per day.  We also have not much to do after the school closes down.  A lot of pressure is put on the overburdened school system to provide the social, athletic, moral and intellectual training for all the children.  Too much pressure and too few resources.  Not to mention  the lack of religious training or moral values in the lives of our children and in our schools.  Worst of all our middle class homes have easy access to guns.  Lots of them.

            All these things and many more contributed to each tragedy.  If there were such a tragedy where I live, the interviews would be just the same.  "We never would have dreamed that it would happen here."

            The more I thought about it, the more worried I got.  These things are preventable.  They are not like hurricanes or earthquakes that we cannot stop.  They are acts of man, not God.

            The Sunday after the killings I  preached about the school violence.  I reminded the parish of our  training sessions on school violence the previous year and that  hardly anybody showed up.

            "This year," I said, "if you want your kid confirmed in this parish, the parents and the children must attend a workshop on school violence and ways to prevent it. And don't come whining to me when your kid can't be confirmed here because you didn't attend."

            I made the promise.  Now we have to deliver a program that is worth the time of all those parents and students.  We will.

But even just the act of getting everybody together to think about it will be useful.   We are not just going to let things drift along.  We know from sad experience that it can happen here.  In nice communities just like mine.  Especially if we do nothing to stop it.