On Feb. 15, Sacred Heart University hosted a memorial service to remember Connecticut residents and loved ones of university community members who lost their lives to COVID-19. This was an all day event, sponsored by the Office of Mission Integration, Ministry and Multicultural Affairs that took place from 9:00 a.m. and finished in the late afternoon.
The service was live streamed on YouTube which allowed for families at home to watch throughout the day and access at a later date. The memorial was also displayed on every screen throughout campus so students on campus would be able to take a moment walking through the halls to watch the service. The doors of the chapel were also open all day for anyone who wished to hear the reading of the names in person.
The service began with remarks from Father Tony Ciorra and university president, Dr. John Petillo which led into an opening prayer from interfaith chaplains at Sacred Heart, Imam Gazmend Aga and Reverend Sara Smith. Sabina Petillo led off the reading of the names.
Dr. John Petillo stressed to the university community that this was a day of reflection and community members should participate in any capacity they could.
“These are people whose families aren’t going to see them again, they’re not just numbers they’re people like us, and that could’ve been us,” said Petillo.
Campus Minister, Valerie Kisselback, also emphasizes the fact that these are people not just names on a piece of paper.
“We hope this service offers consolation in the midst of grief and serves as a reminder of the magnitude of the loss we have experienced this past year. We have 55 people reading almost 6,500 names over the course of 5 hours,” said Kisselback. “These are not just names, but beloved parents, children, siblings, grandparents, relatives and friends.”
Those reading names at the service were made up of deans, university professors and faculty members, students, health care professionals from St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and state elected officials.
Senior Shannon Torres was among the 55 readers that presented names at the memorial.
“It was memorable to be a part of this memorial because sometimes you forget how it has affected others in so many different ways,” said Torres. “You look at these names and it takes a second to register why we have to read these names in the first place and it’s sad.”
“There are several intentions behind this memorial: to provide a space to mourn during a time when our communal ways of expressing grief have been so disrupted; to honor those we have lost and commend them to God; and to pray for our neighbors in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Trumbull, and throughout the state of Connecticut, in recognition of the broader civic community we are connected to as a university,” said Kisselback.
The COVID-19 memorial service stream can be accessed at http://www.sacredheart.edu/memorialservice.