Siena Saints were called to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God at a June 15 prayer service that served a dual purpose.

The College community gathered – a handful in person in front of Siena Hall and hundreds more online – to welcome the Bells of Remembrance, gifted to Siena by the Franciscan friars of the Holy Name Province. They prayed and listened as the three bells were tolled in sorrow and grief at systemic racism in American society and the lives lost to a pandemic – and rung in the spirit of universal love and for just and right relationships. 

The country has been reeling following months in quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused nearly 120,000 deaths and an economic meltdown. This quiet suffering erupted into fresh pain on May 25 with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which touched off emotional demonstrations against centuries of racism and started a new and long overdue reckoning on race in America.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of our fragility and our impact upon one another. The horrific death of George Floyd exposed once again the ongoing virus of racism, America’s original sin,” said Fr. Mark G. Reamer, ’83 OFM vice-president for mission and guardian of the Siena friary. “Francis of Assisi teaches us – the inseparable bond of all creation cries out for just relationships leading to true peace. We gather today in prayer, as an initial step, to ground ourselves in this true peace.” 

The service was posted to Siena’s Facebook page.

The bells were designed by Br. David Schlatter ’72, O.F.M., to ring in honor of Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department who died in the line of duty during the September 11 attacks. The bells have already logged thousands of chimes...and miles. They've been rung for annual memorial commemorations in Manhattan, Shanksville, Arlington, and Boston. They will now have a permanent home on the Siena campus, thanks to the senior gift of the Class of ’20 supporting their installation. The precise location for the bells will be announced soon.

The Bells of Remembrance Project “gives expression to feelings people sometimes cannot verbalize,” according to Br. David. Though his initial desire was to create a memorial for one friar, the bells evolved into a simple yet fitting way to reverently honor others.  

Siena leaders and students gathered on one of the first truly hot afternoons of the season on a campus that was still mostly shut down, as America worked to find its way forward to heal from a pandemic and the even worse and far longer lasting scourge of racism.

Beth DeAngelis, Senior Director Sister Thea Bowman Center for Women, led a responsorial prayer in memory of those who have lost these battles and those who have helped them fight:

“…At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them…When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them…When we have decisions that are difficult to make, we remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs, we remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them.”

Several students and recent Siena graduates had the honor of tolling and ringing the bells. 

“It shows a lot of support from our school,” student athlete Jordan King ’23 said. “They have our backs, and the African American community, and they want to make a change. Not just a change in the community but the whole world.” 

Joining King were Denzel Tchougang ’21 and Unushah Khan ’21. The service concluded on a note of celebration in honor of the Class of 2020, with Olivia Marsicano '20, Breanna Brown '20, Devon Hebert '20 and Cate Lawyer, ’20 ringing the new bells.