The Prayer Vigil to End Hatred shines a light to stop bullying and suicide.
On Nov. 7, students gathered to the Mary Seat of Wisdom Chapel to attend the Prayer Vigil to End Hatred, organized by LIFE and Campus Ministry.
Gannon University’s LIFE, Love is for Everyone, is a campus ministry group geared toward helping students explore their inner faith and providing support for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community.
Matt Kridel, the president of LIFE, said the Prayer Vigil to End Hatred originally began three years ago as a response to the epidemic of teenage suicide, particularly to those who were perceived as gay. Kridel said he has gone to three.
Kridel said he attended the first as an observer, gave a personal testimony at the second and advanced to both speaking and helping organize the third.
Kridel said most of the planning was done by Deacon Steve Washek and Jessie Badach Hubert from Campus Ministry. Washek chose the readings for this year and Badach Hubert chose, organized and conducted the music.
LIFE and campus ministry didn’t deviate too much from the first Prayer Vigil, but new elements were added and the readings were changed, Kridel said. Testimonials were also organized differently in that collected thoughts, hopes, prayers and stories of different students and teachers were expressed as opposed to one person’s story.
This year’s Prayer Vigil mainly focused on light. Kridel said he interpreted the light representing different things: the lives that were put out too soon and that their lives were not in vain.
“We can still carry their light with us and bring light into the lives of others,” Kridel said.
Kridel described the Vigil as a very refreshing, thought-provoking and wonderful experience. Students reflect on the lives that are lost or affected by bullying and suicide, but then are encouraged to go and make a difference and stop it.
LIFE has received tremendous amounts of positive feedback from several people, Kridel said. The Prayer Vigil to End Hatred has made people laugh and cry and Kridel thinks emotional responses are also positive feedback.
“For anyone who’s part of the LGBT community, or had a personal experience with bullying or suicide, it’s incredibly uplifting and therapeutic,” Kridel said. “I think regardless of the reason for attending, opportunities for reflections and focus, like the Prayer Vigil, are very important for people to have.”
Erica Dougherty, a chemistry/pre-med major, said she went to the Prayer Vigil last year and liked it because it opened people up and it was a good experience.
“The Prayer Vigil last year opened up my eyes to the LGBT community,” Dougherty said. “I didn’t know that they were struggling with acceptance at Gannon, but I am more open to it now.”
This year, Dougherty said, she liked that it was more organized, the victims were named, there was community involvement and more of a focus on light.
Dougherty said she thinks more people in the Gannon community would go to the Prayer Vigil if they didn’t have it in their head that “It’s only for people involved in LGBT,” even if the stories of bullying and suicide are centered around that idea.
Kridel said looking ahead to next year’s Prayer Vigil to End Hatred, he’d love to see involvement from other groups including other Campus Ministry groups, clubs, Greek organizations or whoever wants to help.
“Bullying and suicide is non-discriminatory,” Kridel said, “and all can benefit from being involved.”