SÃO PAULO (OSV News) ─ The tragic June killing of two students in a school shooting in southern Brazil sparked outrage but also brought a young couple's life to light, showing their devout Catholic faith. The girl's mourning father told OSV News that testimonies of his daughter's holy life help him and his wife cope with the tragedy.
As the victims' story was made known, people from different parts of the country began to send messages to the local archdiocese and to the Catholic group they frequented, saying how the testimonies of the couple's faith inspired them. Now, their virtues are being analyzed by the church and a future sainthood cause for them is a possibility.
Seventeen-year-old Karoline Verri Alves and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Luan Augusto da Silva, were playing Ping-Pong during break when a former student broke into the school building June 19 in Cambé, in the state of Paraná, carrying a gun. He randomly shot at least 16 times, hitting the couple. Karoline died at the scene, while Luan was taken to a hospital and was declared dead the following day.
attack sparked outrage all over the country, where school shootings have become
more and more common over the past months.
The perpetrator was arrested and told the police that he suffered bullying when he studied in that school years before and wanted to take revenge. He also said he had psychiatric problems. He was found dead in his cell on the following day, after allegedly committing suicide. Four other people were arrested for helping plan the attack and for selling guns to the shooter.
The incident was the third school attack with fatalities since March in Brazil, a country where such occurrences happened only once every two years between 2002-2022. Since August 2022, the frequency of such incidents has skyrocketed, with an unprecedented surge in April 2023, when dozens of cases were reported all over the country.
Karoline's father, Dilson Alves, was shocked to learn his daughter had been killed in school and still has a sense of disbelief when he thinks about her death. Faith has been helping him and his wife -- they are both coordinators of their Catholic community and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion -- to cope with so much pain, he told OSV News.
But not only that. What has been giving additional strength to Alves and his wife is the fact that so many people have been talking about his daughter's virtues and the willingness of the local Archdiocese of Londrina to officially examine her life and declare her a role model for Catholics.
"We have been receiving letters from all over Brazil from people who are impressed with Karoline's life. That process certainly helps us going through this moment," he said.
Alves affirmed that Karoline has always taken part in church life. She used to be an altar girl at their parish and joined her two older siblings -- a girl and a boy -- in a Catholic youth group in Cambé called I Lummi at 13.
That was her last year in high school and she intended to study to be a teacher. She also had the goal of studying gastronomy. Karoline had been working at a Catholic goods store -- "where she was more interested in evangelizing people than in selling things," as Alves described -- and had a small business selling candy prepared by herself.
"She also had the dream of getting married to Luan and building their family," her father described.
They got to know each other at school and began to date a year ago. Karoline immediately convinced Luan, who was not as close to Church as she was, to accompany her to I Lummi, a central part of her life.
"She completed our formative process during two years and became a full member -- a servant, as we say -- of the group," said Natália Tomeleri, I Lummi's coordinator.
Karoline was in charge of the activities with children. Tomeleri said the kids loved the way she would "translate concepts of faith to a simple language that they could understand."
Luan would rapidly get involved with I Lummi's activities too, becoming a valuable member of that community.
"She incentivized him to develop the same virtues she was looking for. He was a wonderful boy and assumed that mission with her," Tomeleri told OSV News.
According to Dilson Alves, the young couple also became lay members of the Vicentine conference. On many occasions, he took Karoline to collect food donations and then distribute them to poor families in Cambé.
Two days before the school shooting, Karoline went to confession and, upon receiving absolution, she asked the priest if she "now was welcome to the kingdom of God," the confessor later told Alves. On Sunday night, June 18, her father heard her praying the rosary with Luan on the phone. Before school June 19, she called her parish in order to schedule another confession.
"Such assiduity with the sacraments, her pursuit of sainthood in every activity she performed, the holiness of her relationship with Luan -- all those elements reinforced our conviction that she is a role model for Catholics in our archdiocese," Father Dirceu Junior dos Reis, in charge of the Youth in Londrina, told OSV News.
In his opinion, her life -- and Luan's -- demonstrates that a "young boy or girl can work, study, have friends and a girlfriend or boyfriend, and none of such things needs to be an obstacle to faith and sainthood."
"Anonymous teenagers were living their lives in sainthood. It is a sign that sainthood has no age, it is available for everybody since baptism," he said.
dos Reis said that the local church is currently analyzing a potential
"diocesan acknowledgment of Karoline's and Luan's virtues." The goal
is to make their story known and inspire the youth.
"A cause for beatification is still a distant reality. The phase of commotion must end and then we will see if a devotion emerges among the people," he said.
Karoline's family has been gathering information on her life -- her messages, her diary, stories told by her acquaintances -- and preparing a short biography. Her friends at I Lummi have been collecting all messages they are receiving since the school attack from people inspired by the couple's testimony.
"We pray that their story can help other people to get closer to the church. If God wants them to be declared blessed someday in the future with that goal, it will be a great grace for us," Tomeleri affirmed.
In her opinion, Karoline and Luan by no means were extraordinary people, "but they led their ordinary lives as pious Catholics in an extraordinary way."
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Eduardo Campos Lima writes for OSV News from São Paulo.