Coming back from an emotionally heavy week, month, semester or year always seems to leave us with inadequate words on how to reflect on what truly happened. At these times, we seem to have lost track of reality.
Recently, the Gannon University family has been put under the test as it lost one of its members. Our support system proved to be made of steel.
As a community, in different ways, we all were touched by the loss of Abbie. Whether you knew her as a friend, a sorority sister or someone you barely knew, the life taken too quickly from us has impacted us all.
Coincidentally, Gannon comes together this week in Unity Week: a week to come together as brothers and sisters of Gannon. Although with a little reflection, there may be a little divine reasoning for this week being Unity Week.
Unity Week resembles the solidarity pillar in Catholic Social Teaching (maybe it’s something you remember from your Catholic Tradition class… or maybe not). But to cut to the point, this week is supposed to bring us closer.
Solidarity is defined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as, “not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”
There are a million messages we can take from last week, from this week or even the rest of our lives reflecting from everything Abbie taught us.
For myself, what always struck out to me was her incredible capacity to love without question. When you encountered Abbie, you encountered love. Abbie lived out Unity Week and lived out Solidarity.
We can’t bring back her smile or her warm energy, but we can take it forward into our campus and community.
Henry Nouwen, a great man and theologian, wrote, “Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain.
“The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
“Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”
Unity Week has to be longer than just this week; it has to be stronger than just this week. Unity Week needs to transcend a five-day workweek, a seven-day cycle; it needs to make us realize how important it is for us to be together.
As a community, we hold each other when we need love, we go out on the weekends we each other because we love; we love because we’re a community unified in Christ.
One of my favorite authors, C. Joybell C. writes a lot about unity and love. In one of her passages she writes, “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same.”
Let us celebrate Unity Week in our differences and in our commonalities; and let us come together in these times with love and honesty. Let us allow others to embrace our weakness when we need to and give to others with your strengths.
We are Gannon and we are Gannon strong. God bless.