After pro-life flags stolen, students pray, install new ones

Fourth-grader Gabby Yemba, left, and eighth-graders Carmen Yemba and Olivia Hensley of Our Lady of Fatima Parish School in Huntington, W.Va., place "Right to Life" flags on the parish lawn Oct. 6, 2022. Students placed 800 flags for Respect Life Month, observed by the U.S. Catholic Church every October, but all of them were stolen a few days later. With money donated by a parish school family, new flags were purchased and the students were able to replace all the flags by Oct. 14. (CNS photo/courtesy Our Lady of Fatima Parish School)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (CNS) -- Imagine how long it would take to place 800 small Right to Life flags on a church lawn.

Although it is quite the undertaking, the students in fourth through eighth grades at Our Lady of Fatima Parish School in Huntington, didn't mind. For them, it was important to spread the pro-life message and make it visible to their community.

Father Tijo George, a priest of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish said he explained to the students that the flags on the church grounds were important especially during October when the Catholic Church celebrates Respect Life Month.

The students worked hard in their endeavor, and when they finished a sea of small pink and blue flags in memory of the unborn lost to abortion blanketed the lawn in front of Our Lady of Fatima Church.

A few days later, the flags were gone -- stolen during the night. The students were saddened by what had happened and prayed for those responsible.

"Jesus asks us to pray and forgive those who have hurt us," said Micah O'Connor, principal of Our Lady of Fatima Parish School. "Of course, we have anger and bitterness; however, these feelings will not give us peace. Our peace comes through prayer and forgiving those who have wronged us."

The parish was the first to call for the prayers.

"Sorrowfully, all the flags that the students put on the lawn were removed," Kathy Lafferre, parish office manager, posted on the parish's Facebook page. "Please pray for the person or persons who removed them."

Father George realized the flags were gone when he walked to the church to celebrate Sunday Mass Oct. 9. He announced to the faithful gathered at Masses that morning that the flags had been taken.

"The kids were upset and could not understand why someone would take all the flags," O'Connor told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

In addition to discussions with the students about forgiveness, O'Connor said that she and teachers also reinforced the importance of honest behavior, the concept of ownership, and how it makes others feel to have something stolen from them.

Catholics of the community were not content to allow the students' and parish's pro-life message to be silenced. The Lucas family, members of neighboring St. Stephen Parish in Ona and parents of a fifth grader at Our Lady of Fatima Parish School, donated money toward the purchase of new right-to-life flags.

Father George, who also serves as pastor of St. Stephen, said he wanted to replace the flags at Our Lady of Fatima with new ones to let the people of the community "know the stand of the church on life."

Once the new flags arrived at the church, the students got to work placing them in the ground. When they finished Oct. 14, the small pink and blue flags covered the lawn and surrounded the statue of Our Lady in front of the church.

The students' and parish's pro-life message was visible once more.


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