Tree of Life Tragedy Vigil Demonstrated Compassion

Michael Murphy, Reporter

The community mourned the loss of 11 people murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting during a vigil Nov. 1.

Sister Jean Massaros, RSM, Vice President of Mission Integration, organized the remembrance.

“The vigil was in solidarity with the people from the Tree of Life community in Pittsburgh who were assaulted,” said Massaros.

The community packed into the Mercy Hall Chapel for the vigil in honor of the 11 lives lost to a gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

The vigil was open to the public.

When Massaros first heard  news of the tragedy, she consulted with Stacy Gallin, Director for the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, and decided something had to be done to honor the victims.

Gallin is of Jewish heritage and belongs to a Jewish Temple in New Jersey.

With permission from her temple’s Rabbi, she helped bring services to the Misericordia Chapel.

Dr. Thomas Botzman, President, released a statement Oct. 29 to demonstrate the university’s concern about the tragedy.

“We ask all in Northeastern Pennsylvania and across the country to do whatever you can to show your support for the Jewish community,” said part of Botzman’s statement.

The statement also called for everyone to show “our region and our country examples of what sisterhood and brotherhood can be.”

Messaros said the event was an effective way to raise awareness about tragedies that occur.

“Sometimes I think on university campuses, people do not read the information that comes out, but we do this on a regular basis to show our solidarity,” said Massaros.

During the vigil, many participated in the lighting of candles, which were lit for each of the eleven people killed.

Gallin read the Jewish tradition and Messaros read the English translation.

Massaros and the rest of the community strongly denounced acts of anti-Semitism and other acts of bigotry.

“Non-violence is one of the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy,” Massaros said.

She believed a collective response to the tragedy was necessary.

The University’s core values based on compassion love, caring, advocacy and acceptance were under attack by the Pittsburgh tragedy. No matter where a tragedy may occur, Massaros and the rest of the community puts forth an effort to mourn those affected, even if they are people they do not know.

“We try to call attention to the critical concerns when there are issues,” said Massaros.

Massaros was pleased by the attendance, and that others wanted to side in the core values of the Sisters of Mercy.

“I think it was attended nicely by people, and it is a way of making us aware on campus that something tragic happened,” said Massaros.

She also reflected on another recent tragedy, a shooting at a country music bar in California, which claimed the lives of 12 people.

Messaros said lessons could be learned in tragedy.

“Compassion in all of us should come out in times like these,” she said.

She also stated that our safety should not be taken for granted.

“Sometimes, we tend to be on our campus and feel safe and we have to remember that we need to be in solidarity of the people who just died and their families,” said Massaros.