Campus community celebrates Mass to honor life, legacy of Majd “Jude Ash” al-Shoufi
Evan McKenna | Thursday, April 8, 2021
On Wednesday evening, members of the tri-campus community gathered in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to honor the life of Notre Dame doctoral student Majd “Jude Ash” al-Shoufi through a Mass of remembrance. al-Shoufi’s death was reported to students Friday in an email from University leadership.
Born in Syria, al-Shoufi grew up in the United Arab Emirates before arriving to the United States in 2015 when he began his time at the University’s Kroc Institute in the Keough School of Global Affairs. A peace and human rights activist and a refugee of the Syrian civil war, al-Shoufi was pursuing a doctoral degree in peace studies and clinical psychology, with a research focus on trauma intervention among populations of refugees.
Family members and friends of al-Shoufi traveled to Notre Dame and attended the Mass of remembrance while others attended through a livestream of the service.
University President Fr. John Jenkins, who presided over the Mass, began the service by extending condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of al-Shoufi and expressed that the grief resulting from the loss of al-Shoufi was felt across the entire Notre Dame community.
Associate provost and associate professor of theology Rev. Daniel Groody, a close friend and colleague of al-Shoufi, delivered a heartfelt homily to the congregation.
Groody began by reflecting on his personal relationship with al-Shoufi. The two met in 2014 as part of their work in separate activism initiatives concerning the Turkish-Syrian border and the Syrian refugee crisis. The first thing Groody noticed about al-Shoufi, he said, was his kind, compassionate soul.
“While a war was raging around us, Jude’s life-giving passion, humanity, humor and love broke through like a ray of light amidst a dark storm cloud,” Groody said. “It was clear that he really cared about people and wanted to spend his energy as a healing presence in the world.”
Six months later, Groody invited al-Shoufi to study at the Kroc Institute, where the two collaborated on research concerning refugees and the human soul. Groody quickly came to recognize the student as “a man of healing” — and this passion for healing stemmed from al-Shoufi’s own experiences in a war-torn Syria. He recalled al-Shoufi’s activism in Turkey when he organized and offered classes to 5,000 young children who had been forcibly displaced from Syria.
“Jude was committed to this mission because he knew that at the core of every human heart is the desire to be known, loved and understood,” Groody said. “Especially in times of calamity and distress, he knew that people need a place to belong and feel connected, to tell one’s story and to be heard.”
And while the United States and Notre Dame provided a place of refuge for al-Shoufi, Groody said, he never lost sight of his roots in Syria.
“[al-Shoufi] longed for the day when he would see his friends, uncles, aunts, cousins and his neighborhood again,” Groody said. “The desire was so deep that he also had the Syriac word for ‘home’ tattooed on his wrist.”
But during his time at Notre Dame, Groody noted, al-Shoufi also found refuge in Christ. Groody shared an excerpt of al-Shoufi’s recent writing, in which he reflected on his tumultuous early life and the overwhelming power of God’s love.
“My relationship with God was more real for me than the lashes of the torturer’s whip or the pain of their punches and kicks,” al-Shoufi wrote. “He gave me the space to speak when I was isolated, to feel safe when I felt afraid, to find strength when I felt helpless and to feel connected when I felt estranged.”
To conclude, Groody offered a prayer for the repose of al-Shoufi’s soul.
“So Lord, we thank you for the life of Jude, and we entrust him to your loving hands,” Groody said. “We thank you for his commitment to healing, to freedom and to empowerment. May this refugee who was our friend and brother now find peaceful refuge in you as you welcome him into his eternal home.”
Following the Mass, congregants were invited to process to the Hesburgh Center, where members of the tri-campus community gathered with friends and family of al-Shoufi — not only to mourn the loss of a treasured member of the Notre Dame family but also to celebrate his life and legacy.