Finding God on Gannon’s Campus

I remember being concerned about an article published in The Gannon Knight about a year ago, titled “Persico reflects on first weeks with Gannon.”

In the article Persico said: “I had an opportunity to not meet students, but pass them. And what I noticed – it’s still with me now – is the fact that when I would greet them, smile at them, say hello, some of them would actually turn away and not even respond, which I thought was very unusual. That, I was not too happy about.”

He also added that he was disappointed with the way students treated him as he held the door for them and none of them acknowledged him.

“I guess I was a little disappointed. Not because I’m the bishop, but because I’m another human being. And I would hope that, coming from a Catholic university, that just basic common courtesy would prevail. When someone greets you, to greet them back.”

This “is still with me now” and so, I tested this over the past year and sometimes students – and also members of the faculty and staff – didn’t respond or looked away when I said “Hello” or held the door open for them.

I sat and watched students hold doors for faculty, and vice versa, and yes, there were times when they didn’t exchange acknowledgements.

I have been able to interact with various members of this family on different levels and I have also experienced disappointments with “common courtesy” and a less-than-“Catholic” attitude.

What I have been writing about over the past three years like living and teaching reflect the values of any person who sees the importance of other humans and loves giving to others.

What I also have to remember is that some people have not experienced the same things I have, do not hold the same values as I do and are, at times, distracted and unintentionally unfocused.

The Gospel of Luke describes a scene after the resurrection that kept coming to me during this “test” period.

Cleopas and fellow disciples are engaged deeply in a conversation about all the things that happened as they watched this man, Jesus, brutally beaten and crucified and were now confused as to the future. They had put their whole lives into this teaching of Christ and now everything that was true seemed to be false. They must have wondered, “Where is this prophet who was supposed to be here to help us?”

The story continues as Jesus was walking in the same direction as the disciples and he “came up and walked with them.” Jesus asks them about their day and why they look sad and gloomy – Jesus interacted with and was very interested in them.

As the story unfolds, Jesus makes himself known to them in the breaking of the bread and suddenly they went from despair to joy.  There was a sense of truth again and a real mission unfolds.

I did not only see members of the Gannon community act coldly toward each other.

What I also saw was a woman crying on a bench and another consoling her.  I saw a young man with fraternity letters on his shirt stop and pick up books that had fallen out of another’s arms.  I watched a student talk with a grounds crewmember and share a smile.

I saw a cashier let a student take his meal when he was a few cents short.  I watched as a student held a door for a mailroom worker whose hands were full of packages. I watched students help explain homework and classroom material to others.  I watched faculty and staff take time to listen to the non-academic issues that life can throw at us and give encouragement and a word of advice.

Cleopas and his companion were unintentionally distracted when Jesus was walking with them. Jesus had to stop them, talk to them and engage them before their focus was on the message. There was a long walk on that road that led to a transformation of their lives.

Over the past year, I have been very thankful that the bishop shared his experience on that day in November of last year; it led me to a deeper understanding of the love that is on the campus of Gannon.

 

ROB LOPEZ

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