WHEELING - Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, praised Wheeling Jesuit University President James Fleming and students at the school for their efforts and "stellar" behavior this week following the murder of one of their own.
On Thursday, staff and students at WJU filed into the Troy Auditorium for the Mass of the Holy Spirit, a mass that traditionally celebrates the start of the school year.
But this year's Mass also took on added meaning as it acknowledged the death of WJU student Kevin Figaniak, who died early Sunday morning after being severely beaten early Saturday in the area of Locust Avenue and National Road near the WJU campus.
REMEMBERING KEVIN FIGANIAK — Students and staff at Wheeling Jesuit University, on Thursday, file into the Troy Auditorium for the Mass of the Holy Spirit. They came in remembrance of fellow student Kevin Figaniak, who died early Sunday morning after being severely beaten by several men early Saturday in the area of Locust Avenue and National Road. -- Joselyn King
Figaniak was a hockey and lacrosse player at WJU, and many of those in attendance were student-athletes wearing their team T-shirts.
All 320 seats in the Troy Auditorium were filled for the mass, and another 90 individuals stood along the walls, according to Kelly Klubert, spokeswoman for WJU. Another 110 students watched the mass through a video feed at the student union.
"I am very conscious of the great suffering that has gone on here on the campus," Bransfield said. "For me, it has been an outstanding example of faith and leadership."
He commended the Rev. James Fleming - in his first school year as president of WJU - for immediately working with students to address to their spiritual needs following the death.
"As you know, these times are very difficult for any priest," he continued. "But for this bishop to know ... the kind of care Wheeling Jesuit students were getting (from Fleming) - and that he was caring for you - filled my heart. We had someone here on this campus who was able to minister in a very beautiful way.
"This is what Catholic universities are all about."
Bransfield also praised the students for their conduct during the past week.
"The people on this campus came off sterling," he said. "I don't think anybody could have done better than you have at such a terrible time as has been seen ... on any campus."
Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, Pa., was a senior business major at WJU.