UNITED in their grief, a Leeds community led touching prayers in memory of an inspirational teacher who was stabbed to death in her classroom.
Past pupils and residents from Halton Moor paid their respects to Ann Maguire during a memorial service at Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
More than 150 mourners filled the pews of the church, which bears the same name as the school where the teacher worked for over four decades, yesterday morning.
Generations of families came together in prayer to take a moment of reflection as they struggled to comprehend the devastating news which ripped through their close-knit east Leeds community.
Many of the popular teacher’s former pupils were among the congregation for the mass.
And many were in tears as Monsignor Paul Fisher led the tributes.
He said: “Yesterday evening [Monday] the community gathered here in church as well as outside to light candles and to say a prayer.
“Some people struggled to know what to pray for but by the time the church was closed the candelabras were full of light.
“We pray for all those young people in our school next door and their teachers.
“We pray for Ann’s family. We pray for Ann.
“We offer prayer to the family of the man who unfortunately did what he did. We pray for ourselves.”
At one point the congregation reached out to their neighbours on the pews and shook hands with each other as a sign of hope during the short service.
Many chose to stay behind and pray as they reflected on the harrowing events which unfolded in the neighbouring school.
Outside the church Mgr John Wilson, the apostolic administrator of the diocese, said the congregation at the mass was swollen with young people.
He said: “They wanted to come and pray for and remember and give testimony to a teacher who has been a pillar of this community for the past 40 years.
“It is a sad day for us, a day to pause, a day of shock and a day of grief.
“The mood today is very sombre and there is a great sadness.”
Mgr Wilson said the local authority, police and the agency Catholic Care were all at the school offering help to pupils who had been affected by the incident.
Asked about how the children were coping, he said: “I think, like everyone else, the pupils are in a state of shock and still coming to terms with what happened yesterday.
“The chapel is open and children are being encouraged to pray and talk about how they feel and what has happened.
“People need time to allow this information to fully percolate through them.”
He also said that he agreed with the decision to open the school after the tragedy.
He added: “Without the school being open today, many of them may have been on their own today and to cope with this kind of information by ourselves is not good.”