I'm trying to come up with the right words of comfort and reassurance for our school communities, which I am sure are still numb from yet another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. I am relying solely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in doing so, as this is no small task.
We need to first of all put our children first. By now, they have already been exposed to at least what has occurred. Assure them that our Catholic schools are extremely safe. We follow all of the safety protocols and regulations set forth by the State of Connecticut just as the public schools do. Preparedness in lockdown and evacuation drills are exceptional, and the assistance of our local police and fire departments in this area has been nothing short of astounding. Talk to your younger children about the purpose of these drills being preventative, not reactive.
Having attended numerous safety conferences sponsored by the RI State Police during my most recent years as principal, I learned that it is important to widen one's perspective when tragedies such as these occur across the U.S. School shootings haven been increasing in our country, but keep in mind that they are made public so soon to so many,that it may give the impression to our children that they are commonplace and expected. I do not say this to disregard vigilance by any means. I say it in an effort to help emotionally regulate our children, who are anxiety prone in this day and age.
One interesting topic I have learned from attending safety conferences is the fact that with technology being what it is today, the destructive hi-tech violent video games (ones with realistic weapons) are creating better hand-eye coordination and it was said by a national expert in the field that we are "virtually training sharpshooters at an early age". I am not mentioning this to sound "preachy", or to tell you what games you should or should not choose for your children. My intent is to proactively relay to you what was stated by an expert for your discernment.
Another thing to keep in mind is the age-appropriateness of the depth of what our children are seeing about these tragedies in the media, and the ensuing conversations that may follow. Nobody knows your children like you do. Only you can tell how much of this they can cognitively handle. Be careful of too many details. Encourage them to talk about what is bothering them. Keeping it all inside is not good. Let them know that in addition to family members, our pastors, clergy, principals, and teachers are here for them as well. Show them examples of how our schools are loving, caring, and safe communities, not just places to learn. We have prayerful communities which reach out to others locally and globally not only with goods but also with our prayers and intentions daily. We raise our children to be faith-filled good, loving kids who not just act in Christ's pure and innocent ways, but want to act this way. They "get it".
Our administrators are extra vigilant during these times, not only when a tragedy occurs. Our high schools have campus ministers to help with the coping and understanding of tragedies. Just last week, I personally met with Mr. Edward Tessman from Catholic Charities, and Mrs. Angela Arnold from the Office of Development, to partner in offering diocesan approved and licensed counsellors for our PK-8 schools, who are ready and willing to help us in times of need. In addition to the support of the resources of the priests, deacons, sisters, brothers, and caring teachers, dedicated to the children we serve, I want to assure you that we are increasingly doing everything we can do to increase safety and security, and will continue to do so, especially in the supporting of our children's emotional and spiritual needs.
The faith we teach is not just a subject taught every day, it is lived. Our deep-rooted faith in Our Savior, whose suffering and Passion we celebrate during this holy season of Lent is what gets us through these tough times. Even though we may not understand why these horrible things happen, we know that our faith will get us through the,. It is an opportunity to bring not only our communities, but our
world together in healing. Our confidence is that eternal happiness in Heaven with Our Lord will happen one day. He promised us. He showed us by giving His own life that suffering has to happen to attain that hope of glory. What better time than Lent, in anticipation of the hope and glory of Easter to rekindle this hope in our children and remind ourselves that with faith, all things are possible.
I will be praying for your children and your families always, especially during this holy season of Lent. Please know that our pastors, principals and their faculties and staff are available for you now, and whenever there is any issue of trouble to our children.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
43 Perkins Avenue, Norwich CT 06360