After the Feb. 14 shooting at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, ELCA campus pastor Diane Schmit Dardón ministered at the hospital with families and friends of students killed or wounded.
Lutheran Campus Ministry peer ministers helped organize two candlelight vigils, one of which was attended by Northern Illinois Synod Bishop Gary M. Wollersheim. Dardón shared with families at the hospital: “Hundreds of students [at the vigils] are now praying with you.”
For two weeks the campus ministry center stayed open around the clock, she said. Daily vigils gathered students, faculty, synod pastors and synod confirmands. Campus pastors and dozens of local clergy, deaconesses, AIMs and Stephen Ministers offered assistance. Synod staff, Dardón said, “coordinated 24-7 clergy coverage, and set up schedules for food, housekeeping and providing any creature comfort we could use.”
Many students told Dardón they jump when a book drops and they keep looking over their shoulders. When she asked a few what they were looking for, they didn’t know. Dardón told them: “Look for a face of compassion; a face of kindness. Look for that too.”
“I know they’re scared, but I’m encouraging students to look at each other and love each other,” she said. “Every one of us is realizing how much we love life and how much justice needs to be an agenda for us. If we haven’t learned anything else from Virginia Tech and NIU, I hope we’ve learned we must be Christ in the world. Christ saw the outcast, the hurting, the neglected, the struggling. We can’t afford to be complacent about loving our neighbors.”
Dardón sees greater numbers of students signing up to “do something,” with Habitat for Humanity or other volunteer organizations.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers