Linda Chavez

The day John F. Kennedy was assassinated is still fresh in the memories of those of us who lived through it. We all remember where we were when we first heard the news that he'd been shot and how we waited for word that he would survive. We remember the sound of news anchor Walter Cronkite's voice breaking as he delivered the news that the president was dead. But for millions of Catholics, it had a special meaning.

It was lunchtime, and I was in the girls' bathroom putting on lipstick -- a new privilege for a 16-year-old in Catholic school -- when one of my classmates rushed in to say the president had been shot. Everyone froze. One girl screamed. And then Sister Jean Patrice's voice came over the intercom asking all students to report to their homerooms immediately.

The halls filled with students pouring out of classrooms and the cafeteria, but even for Catholic school, the crowds were especially orderly. No one shouted, pushed or shoved. We whispered among ourselves as word spread. The president had been in Texas, I learned from one of the girls who worked in the school office. She had answered the phone when an anxious parent called, and she had been the one to tell our principal, who immediately turned on the small portable radio behind her desk.

When we were all settled in our homerooms, Sister Jean Patrice's voice came over the intercom again. She explained that the president was shot as his motorcade made its way through the streets of Dallas and was taken to the hospital, where he was in surgery. And then, without comment, she began the rosary, which we recited together, our hands folded on our desks. We were praying for the president's life and for his immortal soul.

He was our president, not just as Americans, but because we shared his faith. I imagined Jackie Kennedy, a rosary in her hands, intoning the same prayers we recited -- and millions of other Catholics around the world flocking to churches, lighting candles, praying to the Blessed Virgin to intercede with her Son to spare the president's life.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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