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Mahdia fire victims remembered in prayer


Guyanese across the country held candlelight vigils and prayers for the 19 children who perished in the fire at the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory, May 22. The lives of the victims were reflected upon through songs, prayers and poems and floral tributes.

In Lethem, Fr Joel Thompson SJ participated in a candlelight vigil organised by the Regional Democratic Council May 23.

The following day, the first funeral of a victim of the fire, 16-year-old Sabrina John, was held in her home village of Karisparu, North Pakaraima Mountains, Region 8, according to a Catholic Standard report.

Her funeral service was conducted by Parish Lay Assistants of Karisparu. Sabrina was baptised in that community by Fr Poulose in 2011. The diocesan weekly stated that four of the victims were baptised in Karisparu and two in Chenapau.

On May 25, a Memorial Mass for the 19 children who died in the fire was held 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Georgetown.

Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown was the main celebrant; Msgr Terrence Montrose, Fr Paul Martin SJ and other priests concelebrated.

During the Memorial Mass, photos of the 19 victims were displayed on a flower bedecked table. After the homily, the names of each of the students who perished was read out. As each name was read, a student from Marian Academy placed a candle and a white rose by the photo of that child while the cathedral bell tolled at the calling of each name.

Sr Marie Harper OSU, principal of Marian Academy, organised a Mass at the school in remembrance of those killed. Bishop Alleyne celebrated the Mass.

Prayers were offered for the students who died, their parents, family, friends, teachers, members of the village and the Guyanese population. Prayers were also offered for the injured, hospitalised, and those who survived.

On Thursday, May 25, the national observation of Guyana’s 57th anniversary of independence was held at the Tabatinga Sports Complex in Lethem, Region 9. “The Independence Anniversary celebrations were transformed into an evening of prayer and reflection in memory of the children who lost their lives and were injured in the fire,” said the Catholic Standard.

It mentioned that on Friday, May 26 – Guyana’s 57th anniversary of independence – students of St Angela’s Hostel celebrated Independence Day as well as prayed for the victims and survivors during a Communion service.

The tragedy at the Mahdia Secondary School started on the night of Sunday, May 21 and continued until the early hours of Monday morning. At the time of the fire, there were 57 female students in the building, as well as a five-year-old boy, the son of the dorm mother.

The dormitory, which was gutted in the fire, was a one-flat concrete building measuring approximately 100 feet by 40 feet, with 26 windows, all grilled, and five doors which were locked.

The Guyana Fire Service determined that the fire was maliciously set, and on May 28 the Guyana Police Force charged the lone suspect, a female student at the school, with 19 counts of murder. She will be tried as an adult.