Remembering Together

Villanova created a public space to memorialize the losses mourned by community members due to COVID-19

By Suzanne Wentzel

three members of the Villanova community look at ribbons hung as part of a COVID-19 memorial

The silver, white and gold ribbons seen shimmering above the Augustinian cemetery on Main Campus are a public remembrance of the losses mourned by members of the Villanova community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On display through May 15, the end of Commencement, the ribbons bear the names of Villanovans’ deceased loved ones, as well as global prayer intentions.

In her words of welcome at the livestreamed opening vigil of the COVID memorial Friday, April 9, the Rev. Julia Sheetz, PhD, the campus minister for ecumenical and interfaith outreach, noted that the past year has been marked by other losses too—jobs, milestones, and the everyday experiences of “hugs, of group gatherings, of laughing and eating and learning together in the easy and intimate ways that give life joy.”

plaque at the COVID Memorial on Villanova's campus
a woman speaks at a podium during the opening vigil for the COVID Memorial

Other speakers shared briefly about their own struggles and sorrows. Laura Cermignano, MSN, CRNP, and Bridget Campbell, RN, ’10 FCN, who work in the Student Health Center, described the constant anxieties over the well-being of community members and the changing protocols.

Jacob Galgano ’21 VSB, of Naperville, Ill., lamented the absence of a busy student body and a vibrant campus life, as well as the unfulfilled dreams he’d had for his final year. “I will never be a senior undergraduate again.”

Alberta Parsons, the program coordinator in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, gave voice to the “harsh and troubling reality” that COVID has devastated the Black population in the US because of inequities in the health care system.

people gather at the Augustinian cemetery for the opening ceremony of the COVID Memorial

Campus Ministry intern Robert Nichols ’21 MA, who used to teach in Louisville, Ky., and who lost five former students and two family members, found comfort in this cathartic moment “to release seeds of pain, sadness, isolation and grief.”

University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, reminded the audience that with the losses of the pandemic have come blessings. In particular, the past year has allowed people to appreciate the importance of their personal relationships and to reflect on where they can be improved. “What are those moments we need to take to sit and talk with people and listen … to what their needs are?”

The program ended with an a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace by Emma Ahlstrom ’21 VSB, a member of the Gospel Choir, and the personalizing of the ribbons.

Many names were submitted online by those unable to attend the event, including parents and alumni. All the ribbons were read aloud individually and blessed at a follow-up ceremony Friday, April 23, 2021.

The memorial is sponsored by Mission and Ministry and co-sponsored by the President’s Office and Community First.


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