Photo of College Hall Bell Tower
University News

Illuminating Hope

Luminaria event commemorates struggles and resilience, remembers those lost to COVID-19

Posted in: University

Lighted luminaria at dusk with messages by the MSU community
Luminaria lighted the night with reflections of hope, healing and remembrance.

Students, staff and faculty came together on Thursday, September 30, to support each other and acknowledge the toll COVID-19 has taken on the community and the world. Because the pandemic has touched the lives of all – whether they have lost loved ones, been ill themselves, or suffered from the stress and isolation of living through this time – the campus community created a luminaria display of words of remembrance, healing and hope in an effort to support one another.
The ceremony was held at the Amphitheater and included singing and spoken words of encouragement, as lights flickered in bags that created a wall of remembrance.

Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dawn Soufleris spoke of COVID-19’s disruption to everyone’s lives and the losses experienced: loved ones, cherished friends, coworkers, as well as other losses: “a job, the closure of a favorite restaurant, the ability to do something we love to do.”

But the University community continues to work together and is looking toward a brighter future, she said.

“While we are not fully done with this pandemic, little by little we move closer to gaining back our lives, our community, our ability to be together and our opportunity to cherish what we have,” she said, adding that the night was meant as a chance to pause, reflect and remember.

“I hope you will find peace. You’ll have a chance to breathe. And re-tune. We have come so far, and our future looks very bright,” she said. “In the darkness, there is always light. In the light, there is always hope. And in hope, there is always love.”

Student Government Association Executive Vice President Karla Farfan-Miguel told the crowd that the Black and Latino communities were disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus.

But, she said, “we have all experienced loss, fear and uncertainty during these times.”

“Today we gather here vulnerable, united and able to offer comfort to one another,” she said. “We have all faced great loss, but we have gained a sense of community.”

Earlier in the day, President Jonanthan Koppell offered his words of hope and encouragement in a video to the campus community.

Four luminaria in a row with messages from the campus community
Thoughts of hope, healing and remembrance adorned the luminaria.
Student holding a luminaria
Student Government Association Executive Vice President Karla Farfan-Miguel, who spoke at the ceremony, holds her luminaria in memory of her grandfather.
A wall of lighted remembrance.
Students seated in the outdoor amphitheater holding luminaria
Masks and an outdoor ceremony were a reminder that the pandemic continues.
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Margaree Coleman-Carter addresses attendees
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Margaree Coleman-Carter addresses the crowd about their resilience and hope for the future.
The ceremony also showed gratitude for frontline workers.
Remembering loved ones lost.
Mikaela Benkert singing with luminaria in the foreground
Mikaela Benkert sang a moving rendition of a piece titled “The Prayer.”

Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters
Video by University Videographer Christo Apostolou