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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

‘My frustration lies with the lack of conversation’: SMC ministry assistants address school shootings

Saint Mary’s ministry assistants (MAs) hosted a discussion for the Saint Mary’s community Tuesday evening entitled “Critical Conversation: Let’s Talk About School Shootings and Their Effect on Our Generation.” The event, sponsored by Campus Ministry, was meant to be a space for students to consider the lasting impact of school shootings on the United States, as well as Generation Z, who have grown up witnessing school shootings across the country.

Junior and Le Mans Hall ministry assistant Maggie McNabb helped plan the gathering and noted the MAs wanted to address the impact of gun violence, especially the recent school shooting at Michigan State University, on the students of the College.

“We decided to plan this conversation tonight because we realized in the wake of the MSU shooting that our generation has been particularly affected by school shootings and that we have become numb to them, as many students probably have,” McNabb said. “So, we wanted to talk about shootings because it is a conversation that needs to be had, both to honor those who have died and to recognize the collective trauma that we have experienced growing up in this context.”

Director of Campus Ministry Nicole Labadie described how she holds on to faith even after experiencing the tragedy of a school shooting.

"I find hope in the cross, that Jesus too was the victim of violence and that somehow, through his death and resurrection, he is with us in our own pain, grief and death," she said. "Sometimes we forget that lamentation is in and of itself a response of faith. Crying out to God, being angry with God, calling out the injustices of the world — this is holy work, because we’re trusting God to hear us and naming that this is not how the world ought to be. From this lamentation, we are called to act and work for the building of a more just world."

Labadie encouraged students to reach out to Campus Ministry if they are wondering where to find God in instances of suffering.

"We are here to support all students in their spiritual lives, especially through any and all questions about God and faith. The question of “Where is God in the midst of suffering, violence or injustice?” is an important one to wrestle with. It also leads us to action in the world, so that we can continue working for justice and the common good," she said. "As Campus Ministry staff, we are here to accompany you in conversation."

During the event, McNabb read testimony written by junior ministry assistant Emily O’Donoghue. In her writing, O’Donoghue spoke about the normalization of school shootings for young people today.

“We hear about or experience a threat in our school. We see or read about it on the news and we shake our heads wondering how such a thing could happen to children and teachers who are just trying to learn and teach in their classrooms. We may question our own safety in the schools we attend,” O’Donoghue wrote. “But then most of us move on and return to our day to day lives eventually, until the next shooting occurs and the cycle starts all over again.”

Because O’Donoghue is a secondary education major, she said she understands how she must protect her students if a school shooting were to occur in her classroom.

"Basically, if an active shooter were to come into my classroom, I would be a human shield for my students," she wrote. "While nothing would stop me from protecting my students, even if it meant taking a bullet and dying for them, it's extremely unfair that this has become part of a teacher's job description. As a future full-time educator and a student teacher now, the real possibility of protecting my students from active shooters makes me anxious and angry."

During her testimony, junior ministry assistant Georgia Sigler spoke about the incident at her high school where a student brought a gun into the building. Because the situation was quickly resolved and not discussed by the school, she claimed the threat of gun violence became more tangible to her after the Michigan State University shooting.

"After the shooting happened at Michigan State University, I was struck with a real fear that these types of threats are getting closer and closer to me," she said. "It's becoming an attack on not only me, but on the people that I love the most. Yes, I'm more mature than I was three years ago, but I cannot understand the lack of emotion I had over a threat that directly affected the community I was living in."

Reflecting on the experience at her high school, Siegler argued that the general lack of discussion about gun violence is disconcerting.

"My frustration lies with the lack of conversation. We were taught in school that we need to know where to go if we're faced with an active shooter. We are not taught how to process the real threat that can be the active shooter. We aren't taught to respond emotionally."

McNabb concluded the testimonies by sharing in the speakers’ pain.

"I'm speaking to you today because I know that I'm not alone in this internal conflict. And I believe that by sharing, we hold our numbness and all of our other feelings together and we honor each other in the process."