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Saint John Paul the Great students fast for Africa

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When Pope Francis announced a Day of Prayer and Fasting for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan would be Feb. 23, Michael Gotta, a science teacher at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, knew he wanted his students to participate. 

Gotta was a missionary teacher, school administrator and youth activity facilitator with the Salesians of Don Bosco in Juba, South Sudan, before coming to John Paul the Great.  

Students from the Catholic social teaching classes made posters and the best one from each class hung in the hallways of John Paul the Great to bring awareness to the day of fasting.  In religion classes, students watched a video of Gotta speaking about his experience in South Sudan. 

“This is important for us to understand that prayer is essential to our belief that Catholicism is worldwide and that the Body of Christ is worldwide, and that to be connected in prayer helps us to live that Eucharistic life each and every day,” Gotta said in the video.   

He encouraged the students to pray for people they don’t know. “What God can do with our prayers is exponentially greater than we could even expect,” Gotta said.

During lunch, teachers and students prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. After school, Gotta answered questions about his personal experiences, as well as the political and social issues occurring in South Sudan. 

Katherine Taylor, a senior at John Paul the Great, led one of the Chaplets of Divine Mercy. She liked the idea of the Day of Solidarity but struggled with not eating lunch. 

“As someone who loves food, this was hard for me, but it made me feel like I was doing something for South Sudan and the Congo,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018