BOUNTIFUL — From tiny pre-kindergarten students to eighth-graders, students at St. Olaf Catholic School joined tens of millions of Catholics nationwide in a Day of Prayer for Peace in their communities Friday afternoon.
Shortly before 1 p.m., some 168 students gathered in the school foyer for prayer and a moment of silence followed by all students singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
Folded paper cranes, butterflies and doves that carried students' messages of peace adorned the school entrance.
The student body was led in prayer by the school's eighth-graders, who asked God to fill them with mercy so they may be merciful to others.
"Strip away pride, suspicion and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities," they prayed.
Ashley Cluff, an eighth-grader, said she thought about wars in the world during the moment of silence. "It would be great if it would stop, if people would reconcile."
Another eighth-grader, Anthony Soutor, said he, too, was thinking about ongoing conflicts around the world.
"I just want them all to end, for everybody to just live in peace with God," he said.
On a personal level, spreading peace means treating people kindly "no matter where I go, no matter who I'm talking to," Soutor said.
"I try to make it personal so I think about it all the time and pray for it so there will always be peace," he said.
His brother, 10-year-old Demarco Soutor, said his thoughts turned to families as the students paused to reflect on peace.
The fifth-grader said the folded paper crane he made included his wish for peace, which was "peace around the world, peace in my family and peace for other families around the world."
The Most Rev. Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, invited dioceses across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace on Friday in light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension nationwide.
“By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities,” said the Most Rev. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, in a statement.
Elsewhere in the Salt Lake Diocese, church bells were rung at 1 p.m., joining with others across the country. A Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine was scheduled later in the day, including a homily focusing on healing.
Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, diocesan administrator, encouraged each Catholic parish and school in Utah to pray the rosary or say a prayer and observe a moment of silence.
Principal Laurie Jacobs said the nationwide Day of Prayer for Peace coincided nicely with St. Olaf's theme for the school year, which is "Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me."
Students at St. Olaf's will be conducting service projects throughout the year to foster peace locally and globally.
"We do a service project once a month. That's our mission at St. Olaf School," she said.
Recently, students were given the option of dressing casually for school instead of wearing their school uniforms in exchange for a donation. Their "Casual for a Cause" effort raised about $300, which will be donated to a local law enforcement agency to acknowledge officers' efforts in keeping the community safe and peaceful.
Addie Lavallee, 6, said "peace would help the world get better."
Peace, she said, "starts with you."