Campus grieves and celebrates their lives

The Notre Dame family mourns the loss of freshmen Valeria Espinel and Olivia Lara Rojas, who died in a fatal car accident early Saturday morning. The two girls were walking with sophomore Eduardo Jose Elias Calderón when a car struck them before hitting a nearby house. Valeria and Olivia died, and Eduardo was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. 

This tragedy was announced to the Notre Dame community through two emails sent on Saturday afternoon, the second of which named Valeria and Olivia as the students lost in the fatal tragedy. Following this announcement, an evening prayer service at the Grotto was organized for the student body to mourn their deaths.

Junior Maria Sermersheim reflected, “I had no direct connection to Olivia, Valeria, or Eduardo, and I know many other students were in the same position as me, but we all gathered as one community to support each other and to pray especially for their families and friends.”

Junior Lizzie Todd felt similarly: “It is moments like these that open my eyes to what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.”

Thousands of students attended, and Fr. Monk Malloy mentioned that he arrived at the Grotto ahead of the procession and watched a steady stream of students come through the Grotto for over an hour. 

On Tuesday evening, a Memorial Mass for Valeria and Olivia was held in Notre Dame Stadium. Thousands attended in-person, with thousands more viewing over live-stream, including family and friends from Ecuador and Bolivia, their respective home countries. Their immediate families were also in attendance at the Mass. 

In his homily, McCormick emphasized the importance of family and friendship in the lives of Valeria and Olivia. “Valeria and Olivia were women who lived life full throttle,” he said, encouraging the student body to embody their zealous and loving approach to community. 

As the Notre Dame family mourns the untimely death of Valeria and Olivia, we turn to Christ for comfort. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope” (CCC 1681). Confident in the Resurrection, we know that death, however much we might grieve, is not the end, but is instead a rebirth into the mystery of eternal life with Christ. 

Filled with this hope, Lord, we lift up to you in prayer the souls of Valeria Espinel and Olivia Lara Rojas. 

We lift up their families, entrusting them to the embrace of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. Comfort them, strengthen them, and grant them peace. Hold them close to your loving heart, which was pierced by the loss of your Son.   

We lift up those within the Notre Dame community who are particularly impacted by this loss, especially their friends, classmates, and dorm communities. Holy Spirit, Comforter, console those who mourn this loss and let your peace reign in their hearts. 

We also lift Eduardo Jose Elias Calderón, who remains hospitalized, in our prayers. Divine Physician, direct his caregivers, comfort his family, and heal him.  

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. 

Mary Frances Myler is a junior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and theology. She plans to spend her long winter break reading as many books as possible. Send recommendations to