A group of Loyola students organized and hosted a vigil on Zoom April 30 where speakers prayed for and shared readings about racial justice.
Students chose their own passages and read from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu scriptures, as well as shared poetry and a case study. Attendees were also asked to light a candle on their own and the group participated in a moment of silence.
Junior Aliette Diaz-Valls — a student from Puerto Rico majoring in social work and leader of Loyola’s Spanglish Christian learning community — said she envisioned an event where the community could “come together and hope for a better future” after witnessing news coverage of several recent police killings and mass shootings which heavily impacted Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). Diaz-Valls said 72 people attended the vigil.
After suggesting the event in an email that was passed around Loyola administrators, Diaz-Valls said she connected with Campus Ministry Director Lisa Reiter to plan the event. Within two weeks, they’d assembled a group of 11 students with different backgrounds to share different readings during the event.
“We were a living embodiment of what our vigil is promoting, which is unity, peace, love and support,” Diaz-Valls said. “You would think people with so many different backgrounds and views would be disagreeing over what the heck this vigil’s gonna be, but no. We were all so supportive of each other.”
Reiter said Campus Ministry often hosts vigils when a particular group is targeted by an event or when a Loyola community member dies. Most recently, Campus Ministry helped facilitate a student-organized vigil to honor the lives of those killed in the Atlanta spa shootings.
“I think vigils are a way of coming together in our common humanity and being with each other and supporting each other in whatever the cause is that we’re working towards,” Reiter said.
Although vigils can have religious components, Reiter said it was important to the event planners that voices from all different faiths and backgrounds were involved.
Francesco Costanzo, a sophomore studying secondary education and mathematics who spoke on the panel, said he chose to read from a case study he wrote after teaching highschoolers a book about racial justice. Costanzo said he’s an atheist and chose to read the study after thinking carefully about what his voice could add to the conversation.
“As an atheist, I couldn’t do a prayer because that goes against my beliefs,” Costanzo, 19, said. “Education just seemed so right. I was happy I could share something that might not have been shared otherwise.”
Jennifer Catotal, a panelist and the fundraising co-chair of the Filipinx student group Kapwa, said she hopes the event helped people understand they aren’t alone.
“It’s kind of hard to feel represented at Loyola because it’s Jesuit, Catholic and a predominantly white institution,” Catotal, a 19-year-old nursing major, said. “I hope that the people who were there, or even the people who weren’t there, I hope they realize that they have people they rely on.”
Another event organizer, Alan Huang said the vigil was both to inspire people to make positive change but also to help connect those in marginalized groups to support. Huang is a senior majoring in political science.
Panelist Maya Amin said her biggest takeaway from the event was that a group of students with different backgrounds came together and “were able to host something so beautiful that many people found support in.”
“All of these religions and all of these faiths may be different from the surface, but if you really dig deep and get to the core values of all of these different practices, they all have those same values of justice, unity and peace,” said Amin, the Vice President of the Hindu Students Organization and a junior nursing major.