Students come together for Japanese relief

St. John’s students gathered at St. Thomas More Church Monday afternoon to remember and pray for the people of Japan in wake of the country’s recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency.

Trish Scalese, director of Faith Formation and Liturgy at St. John’s, began the Taize and Rosary service by reminding the 16 people present that, “regardless of faith, we are brought together through the human bond of kindness.”

Amid the church’s soft lighting and stained glass windows, the assembly then engaged in lighting candles, singing songs and reciting prayers.

During one of the prayers in which it was encouraged for attendees to make their own requests, the silence of the room was quickly broken by concerns for Japanese citizens struggling to survive and grieving the loss of loved ones; as well as the Japanese students currently enrolled at St. John’s who may know people affected by the unfortunate events.

Freshman Amanda Savino used this opportunity to also mention Christchurch, New Zealand, which experienced a devastating earthquake of its own last month.

“These are hard times we’re in,” she said at the ceremony’s end.

After the service, Scalese said, “I’m glad that we could provide a calm and restful space for people to come together over a tragedy that’s really so immense.”

Junior Kirsten Pacia used the free time in her afternoon to attend the service as well, saying it was “for a good cause.” When asked about the disaster in Japan, she called it, “terrible,” and “an eye-opener.”

Also in attendance was Lisa Massaia, a freshman, who sang in the choir during the service.

“For what we’re doing, it’s pretty powerful,” she said in response to how she felt the afternoon had gone.

Scalese mentioned that a death toll estimation she heard recently was similar to the amount of students and faculty at the Queens campus.

“When you think about it in terms of our own sphere of the world,” she said, “when you think about what it would be like for everyone on this campus to just be gone, it’s overwhelming.”

Pierre Lucien, a Resident Assistant at St. John’s along with Carolyn Wargula, who lived in Japan for 14 years and is the Features Editor, have been working on coming up with a way for students to give back.

Together the pair has created Push Japan Back Up, an initiative to raise funds for Japan by utilizing various departments around the university including Campus Ministry and ROTC.

Members of the ROTC and volunteers will do push-ups in front of St. Augustine Hall to raise awareness, while others will hand out homemade bandanas with the Japanese rising sun to those who donate.

All proceeds will go to the relief effort in Japan. Lucien estimates that Push Japan Back Up will begin fundraising within the first two weeks of April.

This Friday, members of the Sigma Beta Rho and Pi Delta Psi fraternities will be fundraising in Bent Hall, room 277A from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Scalese encouraged the fundraising efforts  of students, but also encouraged them to find other ways to express

“Obviously fundraising is one way that we want to respond to something like this,” she said. “It’s a good, tangible thing to do. Prayer is more subtle. It’s another way we can be in solidarity with people.”