UCC honors Longhorn Catholic killed on UT campus
By Kanobia Russell-Blackmon
Amid tragedy, the University Catholic Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin brought people together in prayer. On May 2, hundreds of students filled the chapel for the Memorial Mass for Harrison Brown. Killed in a violent stabbing that injured three others, Brown was a member of the university parish community. Paulist Father Larry Rice, the director of the University Catholic Center, said Brown, who was a freshman, regularly attended Sunday Mass, so this act of violence has left students a bit shaken.
“Our students are really reacting to his death with a sense of fear which is understandable in a situation like this,” Father Rice said. However, he also said that in the midst of the tragedy students also desired to pray for Brown’s family and the repose of his soul.
“The ultimate way for us to do that is through the Mass,” Father Rice said.
The principal celebrant for the Memorial Mass was Bishop Joe Vásquez. Urging students, faculty, staff and the community to lean on each other for support and comfort, Bishop Vásquez said, “God, even in the midst of such tragedies, can unite us and strengthen us and we are not alone and our faith tells us we have to get together.”
An integral part of the campus community, the University Catholic Center offers a place for students to pray, to grow spiritually in faith and to build relationships. At a critical time in life when students are looking for answers and understanding, many students are turning to the Catholic Center for pastoral care. Priests and pastoral ministers avail themselves to anyone who wants to talk or pray.
“We want [students] to understand that the larger church, the community of faith is there for them as they go through all of this,” Father Rice said.
Bishop Vásquez and Father Rice were joined by Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia, Paulist Fathers Jimmy Hsu, Charles Kullmann and Bruce Nieli for the Memorial Mass. The bishops and the priests shared the sentiment that their presence was important for the students because they need to see and know that the church is there for them in their grief.
Bishop Vásquez said celebrating the Eucharist together strengthens the community.
“We are stronger when we gather together to pray especially the most important prayer of all –– the Eucharist,” Bishop Vásquez said.
Joe Zaghrini, president of the Longhorn Catholic Council, expressed the importance of the Catholic Center providing spiritual support.
“The faith community at the University Catholic Center is for everybody,” Zaghrini explained. “We are here for everybody as a universal church, as the Catholic Church.”
Father Rice said this horrific crime has shattered the students’ sense of safety on campus, and they are hurting. Acknowledging that it will take time for the community to heal, Father Rice urged the community to continue to support each other and to be a presence of God’s love and mercy.
University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center is available for students who need to talk. The number is (512) 471-3515. The Crisis Line is (512) 471-2255.