Saturday’s terrorist attack in our city has deeply impacted each of us. We condemn not only this horrific act of violence, but the extremist ideology that fueled it and the continued inaction in our country that allows these kinds of events to occur with regularity.
As we wait for more details about the victims, we know that a former student, Zaire Goodman, the son of our alum and Trustee, Zeneta Everhart, was among them. Thankfully, he is now home and recovering. We extend our prayers, support, and solidarity to Zaire and Zeneta and assure them that we will be here for them, not just today, not just this week, but for however long they need us as they heal.
I expect that we will learn of more connections between our Villa family and this mass shooting. Many of our students, alumni, and staff members live in the neighborhoods directly affected. The sense of violation and horror they must feel is indescribable. Our Care Center, mission leader, and entire campus are ready to provide counseling, prayer, comfort, and support to any member of our community who needs it.
We must do more, though. This mass murder was about skin color. It was about a long and terrible and deeply entrenched history of blaming black- and brown-skinned people for myriad social problems. This was a modern-day lynching, right in our hometown.
As a Catholic, Felician college, as a college of peace, as a college that promotes compassion and respect, as the local private college with the highest percentage of African-American students, as a college that is committed to and works closely with many organizations on the East Side, as a college that has Schiller Park and the East Side as its backyard, and as a college that furthers higher learning, Villa Maria College bears an important and critical responsibility in the days and years ahead.
It is our responsibility to lead. It is our responsibility to actively fight racism, hatred, and violence and to improve the communities that have been most affected by these scourges. It is our responsibility to dispel baseless and dangerous conspiracy theories, to counter disinformation with real education. It is our responsibility to foster dialogue and communication.
It is our responsibility to live our values and create the conditions for peace.
Let us pray for the strength and resolve to do this work and for healing in our grieving community.