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U of I students respond to murders with All-Night Adoration

The following story appeared in the February 24 Idaho Catholic Register.

Nicole Koepl is campus minister at the St. Augustine Catholic Center in Moscow. (Courtesy photo/Nicole Koepl)


By Nicole Koepl

for the Idaho Catholic Register


MOSCOW – On a Sunday afternoon in November, at my parent’s farm overlooking the Clearwater River, my fiancé, John, and I had just started our engagement picture session when I received a text from one of my students that said his fraternity house was on lockdown. I remember thinking: “Lockdown?” and then our photographer was ready to resume the photo session, so I put my phone away for the rest of the afternoon.


It wasn’t until later when I saw the news headline: “Four University of Idaho Students Dead”.


So many people talk about where they were or what they were doing when Sept. 11, 2001, happened.


I think many people in the Moscow area will say that very same thing for years to come: Where were you when you heard the news?


I felt sick coming into work Monday morning at St. Augustine’s Catholic Center on the University of Idaho campus. Sick for the students who had died, for their families, for the students who were left behind, and for our small community.


However, at the same time, there was also some-thing reassuring about it all because I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew that I needed to be in the Catholic Center with the students. I needed to be physically present and invested in everything that they were going through, especially as the news started releasing the horrific details of the situation.


For many students, the idea of going home to an empty apartment, dorm room, or house was suddenly unnerving, lonely, and scary. Fear had suddenly gripped the Palouse, and it was difficult to be alone.


The news spread quickly. Within 24 hours, I was getting texts from college friends all over the country and family and friends from home asking if I and the students at the center were OK. Thankfully, none of our students were harmed. But suddenly Moscow, like Virginia and Michigan, had become one of the places where tragedy had struck. We are not the only place where students lost their lives. We are not unique in our suffering. If this world was the only one that we lived for, then it would seem very daunting, in fact impossible, to be joyful during so much heartbreak. However, eternity is our destination. This world is only temporary.


The light in the darkness during those long weeks for me was All-Night Adoration. At the beginning of Advent, our students gathered to adore Our Lord as a community. They choose to stay for several hours, some even all night long, taking turns in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Our students stayed together and remained with each other during one of the most difficult times this community has faced.


Tragedy and fear are conquered only by faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. The faith and the persistence of our Vandal Catholic students inspires me daily. They are inspiring by their commitment to daily Mass and Adoration. They inspire by their simple willingness to serve each other. They pray for one another. However, nothing they have done has inspired me as much as that night of All-Night Adoration. Through the darkest, loneliest hours of the day, the students at our center came together to pray for our campus.


The Eucharist is our stability when everything else around us is loud and menacing. It is through the Eucharist and Adoration that we get a glimpse of the beauty of Heaven.


That is what we must cling to: coming together as a community in front of the Blessed Sacrament, without fear, and in a joyful anticipation of the coming of Heaven.



 

Nicole Koepl, from Nezperce, works with Father Chase Hasenoehrl as campus minister at the Univer-sity of Idaho's St. Augustine Catholic Center. She is a recent graduate of the University of Mary, in Bismarck, N.D., with a double major in Catholic Studies and Theology. She is engaged to John Cornwell, also a graduate of the University of Mary.


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