A total of 1,786 degrees were awarded during the UL Lafayette’s 161st Commencement ceremonies Friday at the Cajundome and Convention Center.
Hope and restoration was the continuing theme for the United Campus Ministries candlelight vigil that took place Wednesday night in the Quad for the students who have been affected by and who have been helping with the Katrina efforts.
UCM, which is made up of six faith denominations, came together the week after Katrina and decided that the vigil was something they needed to do.
“ We understood that we were going to have students coming in from the different universities in New Orleans, and we realized that there were going to be some hurting students and students who were going to need some support and encouragement and maybe just someone to pray with them,” Scott Belmore, Director of Baptist College Ministries, said.
Belmore stated that the goal of UCM is to reach the students of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for Christ. “We understand that Katrina made a big impact on a lot of our students and they need to know there is hope out there,” he said.
Deacon Annie Bates from the Church of the Ascension and Canterbury Club director noted the importance of understanding that different faiths and people in general have more in common than they may realize.
“ It is time for us to come together thoughtfully, prayerfully and to consider how we can help each other as neighbors now, not what can I do to you, what can I do for you, how can we find hope in this new landscape that has come to us through this disaster; how can we find something new and hopeful for all of us,” Bates said.
More than 30 students attended the vigil, most of who had not been directly affected by Katrina. The One Body band, which has a member from each campus ministry performed songs of praise and worship, and a video was shown that recapped what happened in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.
“ It just (showed) some of the devastation that it has brought, just to help people relive and maybe to see once again how real this was and how real it still is,” Belmore said.
In addition to the band, students from each campus ministry who helped with relief efforts or been affected by the storm gave testimony to what they had witnessed and how they have been able to help those who lost everything.
Tiffany Fanguy, a junior majoring in Secondary Education Social Studies from Chalmette, said her home was under eight feet of water. This combined with an oil spill made it impossible for her mother to return the home she lost.
“I stand on behalf of the many of who have lost their homes, their livelihoods and their families,” she said. “The people who were affected will be healed and the areas destroyed will be restored and our hearts now broken will be mended.”
Several students including Laura Connelly, from Our Lady of Wisdom Student Center, spoke about volunteering for the relief effort. “I was working with Red Cross and getting their information,” she said. “One of our questions was what is your home address, and to me that is one of the most simple questions you could ask, but it is actually the question that made people start crying.”
She explained that those in the Cajundome would tell her that they had no home, no address and no phone number. “I could not imagine not even having a home address to give to friends and family, “ she said. “I realized how much work it is going to take in the long run, this is normal now.”
After a moment of prayer, Julian Harris and Jerrell Carter of UL Gospel Choir closed out the vigil with their rendition of Amazing Grace.