THOUSANDS of churchgoers across West Yorkshire joined together yesterday to pay solemn and moving tributes to teacher Ann Maguire who was stabbed to death in her classroom.
Prayers for Mrs Maguire were said in about 90 churches in the county at the request of the Catholic Diocese of Leeds.
The poignant scenes came six days after the mother-of-two was stabbed to death in her classroom at Corpus Christi Catholic College, the school in Leeds where she had worked for 40 years.
A spokesman for the diocese said: “The church is here for circumstances such as this, for people to turn to for comfort, for solace, for guidance.
“Everybody has been so hurt by what has happened. It has shocked people to their foundations, not just Catholics, not just Christians, but all members of the community.”
Mrs Maguire’s daughters, Kerry and Emma, attended a service yesterday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, near the family home in the Moortown area of Leeds.
Prayers were also offered for Mrs Maguire, her family and her school during Masses at Leeds Cathedral, where a book of condolence has been opened.
Monsignor Philip Moger, the dean of the cathedral, said: “People’s mood was sombre, I think, because what has happened has been such a shock and such a tragedy.
“But I think that people get support, not just from being in church but also from being with others.”
Prayers said at the cathedral included: “For those whose lives are torn apart by violence, in particular we pray for Ann Maguire that she may rest in peace; and for her family, the community of Corpus Christi College and the local community – may they be strengthened by the support and love that is shown them at this tragic time.”
A minute’s silence in memory of 61-year-old Mrs Maguire was held before the start of Mass at St Patrick’s Church in Burmantofts, Leeds.
Prayers were said that had been specially written by a former Corpus Christi pupil and regular member of the congregation at St Patrick’s.
Parish priest Father John Kelly said: “The words focused directly on last week’s events. It was a moving part of the service, the tone was highly appropriate.”
A community-led celebration of Mrs Maguire’s life will take place today on playing fields opposite Halton Moor’s Corpus Christi school.
A football match between pupils past and present will kick off at 4pm while hundreds of balloons will be released in the teacher’s memory at 8pm.
The release of the balloons will be accompanied by music played by former members of the school’s brass band.
One of the organisers of the event, ex-Corpus Christi pupil Jody-Nicole Pattison, 20, said: “Mrs Maguire touched so many hearts, this is our way of saying thank you to her.”
About 300 members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) took part in a minute’s silence for Mrs Maguire on Saturday at their annual conference in Birmingham.
Outgoing NAHT president Bernadette Hunter described her as a “dedicated, inspiring and caring teacher who was loved by so many”.
Delegates stood and bowed their heads for the minute’s silence and applauded at the end.
Impeccably-observed minute’s silences for Mrs Maguire were also held before the Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United home games on Friday and Saturday respectively.
A sea of floral tributes has built up at the gates to Corpus Christi school. A book of condolence has also been opened at nearby Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
A 15-year-old boy is in custody charged with Mrs Maguire’s murder.