How do we talk with our kids about tragedy? – Response from the Diocese of Grand Rapids

How do we talk with our kids about tragedy? - Response from the Diocese of Grand Rapids

This pastoral response comes from the office of Dave Faber, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.  Authored by Mark Mann, Director of Youth, Family, and Young Adult Ministries – D.O.G.R..

“Yesterday, we learned that the people of Sutherland Springs and the surrounding communities are suffering from the major tragedy of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church.

I am resending you the message from a month ago (when we had learned of the mass shooting in Las Vegas), in hopes that these resources will assist you in your ministry with young people and their families.

For many children and youth, the tragedy can be sorrowful, confusing and discouraging. For others, this tragedy produces anxiety, especially for those who have been victims of violence, including bullying.

Here is a quick compilation of web-based resources for you to consider using in your parish website, social media, and for developing any meetings with young people or sending to their parents.

Talking about What Happened:

How is this story going to be told?  If left up to what we will continue to view/hear/read in the coming week, we will only know one side of the story. But we are resurrection people! We accompany families (parents, children, youth, and young adults) to the other side of the story – to find hope and forgiveness. This is not to discount the suffering that is and will be felt by the families who lost a family member, but we have a clear destination as we move through fear, suffering and death. How will this story be told? How do we help parents and their children, as well as young adults sift through what they are hearing/seeing in the media; what is talked about on the school campus?

The following websites may be helpful in talking with children and young people about violence, and especially violence portrayed in media:

(Note, these links are provided solely for the specific resources related to the pastoral response. Providing this link does not necessarily endorse the website, its content, or sponsoring organizations. Please use the resources as you best see fit.)

While some parents might want to protect their children from “bad news,” we are challenged to confront the evil in our time and help youth and young adults to do so as well. Items in the news are opportunities to come to grips with this reality.

Looking to the Prince of Peace

“Because we have been gifted with God’s peace in the risen Christ, we are called to our own peace and to the making of peace in our world. As disciples and as children of God it is our task to seek for ways in which to make the forgiveness, justice and mercy, and love of God visible in a world where violence and enmity are too often the norm” (from St. Anthony Messenger Press).

We need to help parents and children, youth and young adults ask themselves how they can be agents of the Prince of Peace today — on their own school campus, in their homes, in the workplace, in our community. In the face of random acts of violence, we are intentional signs and acts of peace.


Please remember the victims of violence and those who grieve the loss of loved ones in your prayers.

Please pray for the man who committed this violence, for him and for his family.

How difficult it is to love, and how many mistakes and failures have to be reckoned with in love! There are those who even come to doubt that love is possible. But if emotional delusions or lack of affection can cause us to think that love is utopian, an impossible dream, should we then become resigned? No! … My dear young friends, I want to invite you to “dare to love.” Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love (cf. Rev 5:13). Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity.

– Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the 22nd World Youth Day, 2007″