Memorial service remembers Gannon student


Faith Wilson, Staff Writer

Gannon University held a memorial Mass for the passing of Jacob Loyal Herrit in the fieldhouse of the Recreation and Wellness Center Monday night. The Mass allowed any student, faculty or staff member to join in prayer and community in remembrance of Herrit.

Those who attended the Mass were able to sign a guestbook for the family to show affection shared by the Gannon community. Students from many organizations, faiths and nationalities showed up for Herrit. There were many tears, but most of all, the fieldhouse was filled with love and support for one another.

The Rev. Michael Kesicki led the Mass with the support of many staff members. Throughout the Mass, Kesicki focused on a theme of love. Kesicki’s lesson was to love one another and learn to readily accept the love and support those around you are giving.

“We have a holy duty to love each other,” Kesicki said during the service.

Staff and faculty worked to make the Mass possible, with the current restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kesicki said that the biggest challenge was getting a space big enough to accommodate any and all students who wanted to attend; this led to the decision to have Mass in the fieldhouse.

“The environment may have seemed unusual, but the experience of prayer was moving,” Kesicki said.

There will be an additional memorial Mass held after Easter break.

Among the students who attended the Mass was Justin Johnson, a senior social work major and resident assistant.

“I always find it really meaningful when people step out of their comfort zone for others,” Johnson said.

“I know there were people at the Mass who were not from a faith tradition or who do not actively attend a Catholic Mass. Some may not have known when to sit or stand. Some may not have known what words to say. But everyone put that aside and entered into the discomfort. I think it’s incredibly beautiful that people did that for Jake. I hate the fact that we have to mourn for a student, and I hope the Mass served as a reminder for everyone, regardless of tradition or belief, that there is light and love in the world.”

Cam Swantek, a junior education major, said he was impressed by the number of students that attended the Mass.

“The Mass reminded us that we are all loved, and even in the times when it is hard, it is so important to recognize that,” Swantek said.

Despite the circumstances, Gannon has worked on creating a safe space to openly discuss mental health and add support for mental health services on campus.

This included adding more staff at the Health and Counseling Center and extending hours to adjust to the influx of students reaching out for assistance.

Gannon has also worked on adding a break to allow students to recenter themselves before finals, as well as bringing in therapy dogs to comfort the students on campus.

University President Keith Taylor, Ph.D.,  and his leadership team also attended the Student Government Association’s Open Forum regarding mental health, which allowed students to voice their concerns and opinions regarding mental health on campus.

“It’s important to care for one another,” Kesicki said.

“If I have any advice, it’s this: Keep looking out for one another.  If you’re having a good day, connect with someone who may be struggling and build them up.  If you’re not having a good day, let a friend be present to you to help you through it.”

If students are struggling with mental health or other issues, they are encouraged to contact the proper sources and seek help.


[email protected]