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The power of silence
Student volunteers help their classmates experience the void abortion creates when it robs the world of life.
Earlier this month, the Life Savers pro-life club at Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries hosted their first Day of Silence, an event intended to highlight the sanctity of every human life.
More than 25 percent of the students participated as “Shadows,” which represented the one in four babies killed by abortion who are missing from the population.
Shadows wore a white shirt with a black “X” painted on the front and back. In addition, red masking tape was placed over their mouth or on their arm. Shadows were encouraged not to talk or make eye contact. The idea was to appear as if they never existed.
The morning began with a brief gathering in the theatre, where the teachers assured the voluntary participants that they had the full support of the faculty, and they should not be embarrassed because they were not doing it alone. They all joined in prayer, led by Dominican Sister Terese Auer, chair of the bioethics department at Pope John Paul the Great. The sacrifice of the day was offered to God on behalf of the innocent human beings killed in abortion and for the mothers who feel driven to make the desperate choice. An announcement was made to the entire student body about the Day of Silence, and the Shadows were released to make a silent entry into their classes already in progress.
Father Mathew Zuberbueler, school chaplain, focused his homily around the Day of Silence. He stressed at the weekly school Mass that human beings do not have the right to decide when another should die. Life is good and it is God’s business to decide when it is over. During communion, while the school joined in singing “We Are One Body,” one verse — “See the unborn baby, the forgotten one, they are not forsaken, they are not unloved” — summed up the purpose of the day: to raise awareness about the need to protect unborn children and provide real choices for women in need.
At lunch, the Shadows gathered in a separate room, where they were allowed to break their silence to discuss the experience and people’s reactions to them. Shadows shared how difficult it was not to interact with anyone, especially when their friends were trying to encourage them to talk.
A small group of Shadows held video-taped interviews with the “living” students in the main cafeteria, holding their questions up on paper. The living students’ comments centered around the loss they felt in not being able to talk with their friends. When asked how his life would be different if his “shadow” friends had never been born, junior Joaquim White said, — shaking his head — “Man, it … it wouldn’t be good.”
At the end of the day, Shadows were allowed to talk.
“At the beginning of the day I thought I would be dying to talk to my friends by the end,” said sophomore Hope Davis. “But when the time came, I found I really had nothing to say.
“The seriousness of the day left me more reflective than talkative. And, in the end, I couldn’t really chat with my friends about what happened that day because I didn’t exist,” Davis said.
“The seriousness of the day stayed with me in the afternoon JV football game,” said sophomore James Gordon said. “It made me more focused, and I ended up scoring a touchdown. I think our whole team played better that day because of the silence.”
Members of the Life Savers club hope to make the Day of Silence an annual event.
On the Web
To view a four-minute video of the Day of Silence, go to jpthegreat.org