Father Francis Pizzarelli, S.M.M., DCSW, spoke to SJC Long Island’s freshman class Wednesday, Nov. 20, during a wellness presentation in the auditorium.
He discussed issues of body, mind and spirit that college students face, such as depression, suicide, drunk driving and drug addiction.
“It’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to feel powerless,” Fr. Frank said. “It’s not okay to allow your life to be buried under it with all the crap and garbage that we all have to deal with. We need to have the courage to reach out to one another. And I believe that most of you here at St. Joseph’s do care.”
Standing in Solidarity
Fr. Frank, who founded Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, New York, called volunteers up to the front of the room and asked them to hold hands with each other. At the request, the auditorium filled with whispers and nervous laughter.
“It’s really hard sometimes to move beyond your comfort zone. To reach out and attempt to build a bridge instead of a wall,” Fr. Frank said, acknowledging that the student volunteers felt a sense of discomfort at holding a stranger’s hand. “However, if we’re going to protect the quality of life that most of you care about and value, you have to have the willingness to take that risk. And this unbroken line of solidarity is key.”
While the students continued holding hands, Fr. Frank began playing a recording of the empowering “You Will Be Found” from the Broadway play “Dear Evan Hansen.” He encouraged the audience to consider standing as a sign of support for their classmates.
The chorus came on, spreading a message of hope: “Even when the dark comes crashing through/When you need a friend to carry you/And when you’re broken on the ground/You will be found.”
One by one, students began to stand from their seats. Soon enough, most of the freshmen were standing.
“We all have the potential and possibility of making a difference,” Fr. Frank said as the song concluded. “Our actions really can count and protect lives.”