The tragedy has especially struck a chord at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City where Fr. Jim Kuntz (NYK) serves as special assistant to College President Fr. James N. Loughran (NYK).
...Kuntz was the founding principal of the 600-student, coeducational boarding school for 7-12 graders.Saint Peter's
held a Memorial Mass on December 15 for all victims.Kuntz
was the main celebrant.
"We cannot imagine the pain and suffering of the families who lost their children," said Kuntz
."These children and all the students at Loyola Jesuit College
are the best and brightest of Nigeria, filled with the eagerness of youth."The loss represents nearly 10 percent of the student body.Kuntz
went to Nigeria in 1994, accepting an assignment to make preparations for the school's opening in Abuja two years later.He
stayed for five years.The school's student body and staff reflect the diversity of Nigeria, with representatives from many religious faiths and tribal backgrounds.
Many of the children who died in the plane crash were heading home to their families in the eastern oil city of Port Harcourt.The fall term at the school had recently ended.Kuntz
often referred to the students in the first class as "pioneers" for the country's future.According to him, it was a role these students fully understood and embraced.
The faith of the Nigerian people amid so much despair and tragedy often served as a shining example to him and his
recalled how he
and others would hear the Nigerian phrase "we thank God for everything" from students and their parents.
During this time of mourning, Kuntz
asks all members of the Jesuit family to pray for the families of those who lost a son or daughter in the plane crash.He also requests that we remember the faculty, staff and administration of Loyola Jesuit College, especially school president Fr. Peter Schineller (NYK) and principal Fr. Marc Roselli (NYK).