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2006 Christmas Message to the Duquesne Community

This season of Christmas and the coming of a New Year is a time for celebration, gift-giving and family. We celebrate the miraculous entry of the Holy Spirit into history at the birth of Jesus Christ, and the remarkable faith of generations of believers. We also mark the end of a calendar year and anticipate the possibilities inherent in fresh beginnings.

These joyous insights into salvation history and natural renewals prompt gift-giving and the traditions of the holiday season. Of all gifts, it is presence itself that we value most—particularly of family—at this time of year.

This year’s Christmas and New Year season come at the end of one of Duquesne’s most difficult semesters. Just weeks after the start of the fall term, when a dozen new recruits to our basketball program were acclimating to Duquesne, the unthinkable occurred. Two young men, unaffiliated with our University, fired multiple gunshots into a group of our students, all of them on our basketball team.

This terrible act could hardly have been more anomalous. Our campus is among the safest urban campuses in the nation. The student event preceding the shooting was peaceful and followed all our University regulations, including the presence of extra security.

Five students were wounded and scores of others on the scene were deeply shaken. Hours and days of anxiety followed. We prayed together for the recovery of our students. An exhaustive examination of that evening’s events was undertaken.

 

We now know the exact moment the shooting occurred. Our campus police were immediately on the scene. Within three minutes, the Pittsburgh City Police arrived. Five minutes after the shots were fired, emergency vehicles were at the scene. Ten minutes later, the first victim left the scene for Mercy Hospital next door. In under an hour, professionals from Campus Ministry and the University Counseling Center were on campus to care for students who had witnessed the shooting and its aftermath.

 

The incredible speed of these responses, and the prayers of so many, helped our injured students make remarkable recoveries. In the two most serious cases, scientifically trained health care professionals freely use the word “miracle.”  Because of the swift and continued care of our students traumatized at the scene, psychic wounds are healing dramatically as well.

 

In the days that followed, our gifts were tremendous. Students reached out to one another in unprecedented acts of support. Faculty made themselves even more available to students; many devoting class time to discussion of the incident and ways to move forward. We had remarkable presence from Spiritans, the Athletics Department leadership, Resident Directors and Assistants, and professional staff across campus. Communications professionals did a superb job of keeping all our constituencies well informed. Leaders in Student Government and the Black Student Union drew unity out of a potentially divisive incident. And we received many, many moving expressions of prayer and support from alumni, parents and friends of Duquesne University from across the nation.

So at this Christmas and New Year season, we celebrate miracles large and small; the large miracles that protected our students’ lives, the many smaller miracles of care for one another. The Spirit gives life on our Bluff, and did so in a miraculous way this semester. As we greet a New Year, we do it stronger, prouder, and more confident in Duquesne than ever before.

Duquesne celebrates the joy of this season with our family, the greatest gift our University gave and received this semester. When we needed each other most these last few months, we were there. We were present to each other as family, a family in spirit, the family of Duquesne. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!