Thirty-three candles for 33 dead

  • April 30, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - Thirty-three candles with iconic images of Christ wrapped around them were spread throughout the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre chapel, commemorating the 33 students and professors who died April 16 at Virginia Tech.
“We had to do something,” said pastor Fr. Patrick O’Dea. “How are we reaching out to our own students and faculty?”

During the week after Cho Seung-hui shot 32 students and faculty dead before turning his gun on himself, O’Dea gathered the Newman Centre’s student campus ministers to offer prayer intentions for the dead and their families, including the killer.

“It’s a broken life. It’s not our place to judge. It’s our place to pray for that person and remember him as well. He’s a soul that needs our prayers right now,” said parishioner and former student Andrij Harasymowycz.

Before the Saturday and Sunday Masses, Sr. Claire-Monique Lerman, FMM, explained it is Christian tradition to light a candle for the deceased.

“There was a realization that regardless of the faith of the individual student, we wanted to emphasize that as a Christian community we’re commending them to the Lord,” said O’Dea.

A rock was also laid in front of each candle, symbolizing that it’s now time for the families and community to rebuild.

“There’s very little we can do tangibly,” said Harasymowycz. “It’s really a time to come together in prayer.... It’s not like (Hurricane Katrina in) New Orleans where you can fund-raise and help people rebuild their lives.”

One suggestion being acted upon is that the Newman Centre is sending photos of their candlelight prayers and messages of condolence to the chaplaincy at Virginia Tech.

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