Mass marks year since QU student’s passing

Lisa Gomez

Hugs were given, received and affectionately remembered in the Carl Hansen Student Center on March 22 as a memorial mass was given in loving remembrance of late Quinnipiac student Ryan J. O’Neil on the one year anniversary of his death.

“He was a hugger – he loved to share hugs!” said Maureen O’Neil, O’Neil’s aunt, who is better known as Auntie Mo. The numerous students congregated all nodded fondly in agreement.

O’Neil, originally from Corina, Calif., was a member of the class of 2006 in the School of Health Sciences as a student in the entry level Physician Assistant program. Throughout his participation and studies in the program, director Dr. Michelle Geremia became his mentor and close friend. After she was approached by many members of O’Neil’s class looking to honor him a year after his death, Geremia felt a memorial mass would be appropriate.

“I think for anyone it is important to remember someone who has passed away, not only for the people whose lives they touched but for the person who passed away,” Geremia said.

Danielle Mooers, a junior English major and former neighbor of O’Neil’s, also felt the memorial was imperative to hold.

“This is so important because everyone can get together, talk and remember him,” Mooers said.

The Reverend Jonathan Kalisch, Quinnipiac University chaplain and the director of campus ministry, led the memorial mass. Father John spoke of the significance of gathering.

“It is natural to experience feelings of sadness and anger, but while Ryan’s life on Earth has ended it is not over as he has eternal life,” Kalisch said. “It is important that our prayers for him continue as life goes on, and that’s our real hope.”

O’Neil looked into Quinnipiac at the suggestion of Auntie Mo and loved attending the institution. “Ryan found a home here,” she said. “He came to the orientation and said to me, ‘this is the place for me.’ He was so happy and enthusiastic about coming to school here. We shared a lot of joy with that lad.”

O’Neil’s Uncle John Kevin, known as Uncle Jack, agreed with his wife.

“The welcoming spirit was outstanding. Quinnipiac was a wonderful aspect of his life and one thing that was very important to Ryan was the friendships that he made here on campus,” Kevin said. “Ryan dearly wanted to be remembered, and I urge everyone to be supportive of one another, not to exclude anyone and to be sensitive.”

One way Quinnipiac will remember this student is through the Ryan J. O’Neil Physician Assistant Scholarship.

This award, begun last year, is awarded annually to a Quinnipiac student who displays excellence in the program. The scholarship will only add to the countless lives that Ryan touched during his time at Quinnipiac.

“He was an incredible young man. He would have been an incredible physician assistant,” Geremia said. “He touched so many lives in so many different ways, helping people more than he ever imagined.”