Memorial Mass celebrates life of Jake Scanlan
Catherine Owers | Friday, November 13, 2015
“Jake loved and was loved. While Jake loved, our faith reminds us that God is love. Despite our struggles that God took a beloved member of our community away too soon, we can’t help but see how God poured his love into Jake’s heart, and man, did it change lives,” Fr. Pete McCormick, director of Campus Ministry, said in his homily at the memorial Mass to celebrate the life of junior Jake Scanlan.
Scanlan, a resident of Siegfried Hall, died unexpectedly in his sleep Wednesday morning from what appear to be natural causes. Scanlan’s family and friends, residents of Siegfried Hall, and students, faculty and staff from across campus attended the Mass, which was celebrated by University President Fr. John Jenkins at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Thursday evening.
McCormick described the 20-year-old mechanical engineering major from North Potomac, Maryland, as a “man for others.”
“Jake was deserving of the spotlight, being a great athlete, great academic, loyal friend, faithful brother, loving son. Jake preferred to use his God-given talents to make others happy, living his life so authentically that he could not help but inspire others to do the very same,” he said. “In fact, it was pointed out that having an entire Mass for Jake would be enough for him to turn in the exact opposite direction, so not wanting to draw attention to himself, so rather being invested in others.”
McCormick said he led a procession from Siegfried Hall on Wednesday evening to the Grotto after attending a standing-room only Mass in the Siegfried Chapel.
“As we rounded the corner into the Grotto, coming down the steps, I realized that we were no longer just a group of Mass-goers having left Siegfried,” he said. “Instead, we were joined by hundreds of people from around campus who had come together to pray for this young man. All standing in silence, all standing in honor and prayerful respect of their friend and their brother.”
After everyone had lit a candle, Fr. John Conley, rector of Siegfried, brought together those gathered at the Grotto, McCormick said.
“In that moment, though, something happened that I will never forget, as I stood there, huddled in the cold, my hands buried in my pockets, looking down in prayerful reverence. I immediately felt a large arm over my right shoulder and then another one over my left shoulder,” he said. “And as I looked up, what I realized was that not only were we drawing closer to the front rail of the Grotto, but we were doing so together, with arms outstretched …
“And I thought to myself, how fitting that a young man who has committed himself to loving others, to giving of himself to others, to bringing others together, even in death, has the ability to, last night, bring so many together — and this night to bring so many people that we literally could not fit them all in the Basilica. What a beautiful thing that is.”
Scanlan’s death leaves his family, friends and the Notre Dame community with “big, substantive questions,” McCormick said. However, he said people of faith are ultimately challenged to consider that a loving God would not leave Scanlan at death.
“That we understand just as God has blessed Jake with life … he will not leave him alone, abandoned,” he said. “And just as we support one another, as we continue to do now and into the future, God, too, calls Jake to himself, and invites him on a new journey — a journey to a deeper and fuller understanding of God, of life eternal. To a place prepared for us all, by Jesus, through his death and resurrection. … Jake’s life has not ended, it has merely changed.”
Those whose lives have been touched by Scanlan can best honor him by building community, McCormick said.
“In the minutes, and hours, days, weeks, and months and years ahead, all of us will be impacted by Jake and his death, in unexpected and sometimes confusing ways,” he said. “When those cases occur, instead of sinking into grief and despair, perhaps each of us might challenge ourselves to honor Jake’s life by reaching out to a friend, being intentional about helping others in need and, you know what, not always taking ourselves seriously. Because as Jake’s life demonstrated, sometimes what this world needs most is a good laugh.”
After the concluding rites of the Mass, McCormick read a statement from the Scanlan family.
“On behalf of the family, we’d like to thank everyone for the prayers, love and support shown during this difficult time. We all love Jake and are much better persons for having known him. And we are now better equipped to complete our mission on God’s behalf to achieve lasting eternity in heaven. May we always cherish and remember Jake’s humble demeanor, his big smile and his witty sense of humor. May God bless.”