- Joanna Kreke
Vigil for Unity and Peace
On March 25, in front of the Palmieri Activities Center, the Center for Campus Ministry held its first Vigil for Unity and Peace. The event was in response to the division on campus and to offer support to students who have been hurt and have felt as though they do not belong here. With Holy Week a few days away, the event was held at an appropriate time in the season of forgiveness and mercy.
The event started at the PAC at 4 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m.. It began with an opening prayer from University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry Rev. Martin O. Moran III. After the prayer, Patrick Daum (C’22) gave the opening address. At this time, students who contacted Daum were allowed to speak for two to three minutes on unity. Afterwards, those in attendance were “free to reflect, pray and have conversations and fellowships with each other,” Daum stated. There was an optional candle-lit procession beginning at the PAC, where they started praying a rosary. Those who did not have one were given one to keep. The procession stopped at the Peace Plaza where they finished the rosary and continued to the clock in front of Patriot Dining Hall.
“I started planning it about four or five weeks ago after seeing the division that was happening on campus and the hurt that students were feeling,” Daum stated. He led the planning of the event alongside Campus Ministry Coordinator Theresa Maag, Emily Jansen (C’23), Vice President of Student Life Dr. Bernard Franklin and Campus Ministry. Maag was unable to make it to the vigil as she was receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. “The vigil is all about bringing people together and it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or not; all that matters is that you are part of this community,” expressed Daum.
While directors of organizations and clubs are usually in charge of events like these, this was a student-led event. Moran’s role was “just to help the students leading it” as he valued the fact that students wanted to build and foster unity from the bottom up.
Mary Grace Coltharp (C’22) was in attendance and described the event as a “beautiful service” and that it was a “great opportunity to meet new people.” When asked why she attended, Coltharp stated, “the Mount has a lot of healing [to do]... I want to be a part of the positive change.”
Nicky Brutus, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, believed that the event was held because people are being attacked and hurt. She stated that she “really liked [the event],” and that it brought her back to her school experience of having international rosaries where each decade was said in a different language. She saw the event as a “unifying force,” believing it will help bring the community closer.
Meghan Fleming (C’24) stated that the vigil was beautiful and was for a worthy and beautiful cause. She believed that it was held due to Mount’s history of racial inequality. She attended because she “felt powerless” to what was happening in cities across the nation and that she “far away” from it all. Fleming explained that this was her way of doing something.
“We are not only suffering from COVID-19,” Moran stated, referring to the reason for the vigil, but the community is also suffering from division. “You can’t just put a bandage on it, we need to remove it so we can begin to heal,” he continued. “Our students are a priority… Everyone belongs here, this is everyone’s home.” Moran specifically referred to the African-American and Asian-American students and also broadly referred to all students who are a part of a minority group. “Diversity is a gift,” he stressed.
He stated that Campus Ministry wants to hold this event at least once a month. “You can’t just do all this stuff when it happens, you have to continue doing it.” It’s similar to donating blood. Everyone wants to do it after a terrible event which is helpful at first, but then the event becomes old news, people stop helping and eventually the blood is useless.