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Sexual assaults spark prayer service at Grotto

Charlie Ducey | Monday, September 23, 2013


Over a hundred students gathered at the Grotto on Sunday night to reflect on the recent sexual assaults reported on campus. During the service, student body president Alex Coccia and vice president Nancy Joyce stressed the centrality of human dignity.

Recognizing the proximity of the recent sexual assault, Coccia said it is important to remember that the incident was neither anonymous nor distant.

“We’re not hearing about faceless individuals. We’re hearing about our dear friends,” Coccia said.

Coccia focused on the importance of nurturing strong student relationships in the face of such events.

“The question becomes: how are we viewing each other? If we approach each other with the utmost of dignity, then we will take greater care of our relationships and the dignity inherent in them,” he said.

As a group of people directly affected by personal violations, Notre Dame’s students are left with a responsibility to act, Coccia said.

 “We have allowed ourselves to reduce this painful incident to an email that can be erased with the click of delete button,” he said. “We offer these prayers for healing in our Notre Dame family, and as a family we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”

Vice president Nancy Joyce echoed this point of responsibility in her address.

“Only we have the power to change the current conversation and culture around sexual assault,” Joyce said. “As a student body, we are renewing our commitment to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Students can do a number of specific things to maintain a higher standard of behavior on campus, Joyce said.

“Continue to pray for healing of all those affected by sexual assaults. Think twice about email alerts. Challenge ourselves not to become desensitized by these issues,” she said.

Joyce said that the response to tragic incidents such as sexual assault should not end with the prayer service last night. She said students should take part in a conversation about how we handle our interactions with each other.

“In dorm common rooms, in the dining halls, on the quad – we must challenge ourselves to make this a conversation that can lead to a change in how we think and act regarding sexual assault,” Joyce said.

Ultimately, Joyce promoted taking personal initiative in order to cultivate change.

“I think that this is a change that has to come from us – not from OCS or student government alone,” she said. “We have to figure out how we hold ourselves to a higher standard while still enjoying life as college students.”

Father Pete McCormick, who presided over the prayer service, said he saw this as a time to pray to God for healing instead of pointing fingers or casting judgment.

Father McCormick said he recognizes three tangible ways in which students can revitalize our community’s approach to our interactions in all areas and recognize the utmost importance of human dignity.

“First, when we look at people, [we should] see the dignity in each other as individuals, not as a means to personal edification, look upon each other in reverence in awe,” McCormick said.

After asserting the eminence of human dignity, Father McCormick asked Notre Dame students to consider their priorities.

“Do we make time for prayer? Do we seek after some of the more worldly things? Do we speak out when we know that we should?” he said.

Father McCormick said that as members of the Notre Dame family, we are all here for the same basic reason.

“All of us have come to this place because we have a desire to be known and to be inspired to be something more,” McCormick said.

Father McCormick said that the solution to this problem lies in our hands, with prayer as a vital element.

“Here we are presented with an opportunity to take ownership,” he said. “Use this prayer as a driving force that leads and brings about change.” McCormick said.