The following editorial is from the Feb. 23 issue of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It was written by Mike Krokos, editor.

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“With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations. May God heal the brokenhearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.” — Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski

Alyssa Alhadeff, age 14. Scott Beigel, age 35. Martin Duque Anguiano, age 14. Nicholas Dworet, age 17. Aaron Feis, age 37. Jaime Guttenberg, age 14. Christopher Hixon, age 49. Luke Hoyer, age 15. Cara Loughran, age 14. Gina Montalto, age 14. Joaquin Oliver, age 17. Alaina Petty, age 14. Meadow Pollack, age 18. Helena Ramsay, age 17. Alexander Schachter, age 14. Carmen Schentrup, age 16. Peter Wang, age 15.

These 14 students and three adults went to school on Feb. 14. Some of the students were seniors, looking forward to beginning college, a career or life after high school. Others were freshmen, still acclimating to their high school experience. The adults were coaches, security specialists and a teacher who were beloved on the field and in the classroom. Tragically, none of them will ever see family and friends again.

As a nation, our heart aches again after another shooting left these 17 innocent people dead and at least 14 others wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

That the tragedy occurred in a school and took many young people’s lives only adds to the pain we feel. And it only multiplies the concern we have for our school-age children because, according to a story in The New York Times, this heartbreaking crime becomes another statistic to add to the at least 239 school shootings that have occurred in the U.S. since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that took 26 lives — including 20 first-graders — in 2012.

And again, in between the grief, tears and sorrow, many of us ask: why?

As we continue processing what led a former student to carry out this heinous act two weeks ago in South Florida, we offer our condolences to the students, faculty and administration at the school, the local community affected and our country as we struggle to come up with answers.

Many have justifiably pointed to the ongoing gun control issue that has again come to the forefront because the 19-year-old shooter so easily obtained an AR-15 rifle and ammunition. Others bring the shooter’s mental health issues to the conversation and ask why the warning signs he showed were not properly addressed.

While those are fair questions to bring to the debate, we know as people of faith that prayer must be at the top of our list in our response.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said as much. He urged all to unite their “prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation” of those affected by the violence in South Florida, and for a society “with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence.”

Addressing mental health also was part of the prayers offered by bishops.

“We must prevent those who are mentally ill from access to deadly firearms,” said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley. “We can and must do better for each other by coming together as a society with the resolve to stop this senseless violence.”

Bishop-elect Edward Malesic

In Pennsylvania, Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic said: “Prayers are powerful, and prayers are a necessary part of any Christian response to evil. But we have to start taking action to stop this carnage.

“Pray to God that in addition to helping the victims and their families heal from this unimaginable tragedy, that he burn in your heart the courage to stand up and combat this problem,” Bishop Malesic continued, “whether it is by advocating for better mental health services, working to help end bullying in our schools, responding to the needs of boys and young men so they don’t see a gun massacre as a solution to their problems, working to promote respect for life, and, yes, advocating for common sense gun laws.”

As we’ve learned, the answers to address these tragedies do not come easily. But as Bishop Malesic notes, we must find “the courage to stand up and combat the problem.”

For our children’s sake, we can do no less.

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