The U Prays for the Dead, Celebrates with the Living

7th annual Día de los Muertos celebration

By Kyra Krzywicki – Staff Writer

Students gathered Oct. 29 to remember deceased loved ones, pray for those affected by social justice issues and to learn about Mexican culture at the seventh annual Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead celebration.  

Bringing the decorations, the Ofrenda, or offering and the memory of family and friends who have died to first floor of the DeNaples Center requires the joint effort of the Multicultural Center and Campus Ministries. 

Campus minister Amy Hoegan said the event gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to connect with, remember and celebrate lost loved ones. 

“The Ofrenda is the traditional way of doing that in terms of putting pictures of the people who have died, making offerings of both food and items that were significant to the person in their life as a way of remembering them,” Hoegan said.  

Hoegan said the set-up crew has developed a solid plan for constructing the Ofrenda and that even though small details of the celebration have changed throughout the years, the heart of the event remains the same. 

“It changes a little bit every year, but again those key pieces of the remembrance, of pictures of significant people and then like the names of the people from our community of relatives and friends of students who have passed away, like that’s the most significant part for us,” Hoegan said. 

The celebration featured face painting, sugar skulls, bag decorating, traditional music and foods like tacos, pupusas, tamales and pan de muerto con chocolate, but these aspects weren’t the main draw for attendees.  

“People were very attentive, especially as they were reading the background of the prayer and why we celebrate Day of the Dead because while there was good food, and there was face painting and there was arts and crafts, it’s really, in the Hispanic tradition, it is really a spiritual celebration at its heart,” Hoegan said. 

Junior Yasmín Ramírez read at the prayer service and helped decorate sugar skulls because she grew up celebrating this holiday with her family.  

“Día de los Muertos was something I grew up celebrating with my family – we are Mexican –and was truly happy to celebrate it with my second family here at the University of Scranton,” Ramírez said.  

José Sanchéz, the assistant director of the cultural centers and founder of the Día de los Muertos campus celebration, said the gathering not only prayed for lost relatives but also migrants and hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Miami. 

“For those who are voiceless, they are a part of our prayer service,” Sanchéz said. 

Día de los Muertos coincides with the Catholic tradition of celebrating the feasts of All Saints on Nov. 1 and All Souls on Nov. 2, so Sanchéz hopes the event also helps students connect with their spirituality.  

Sanchéz said the campus celebration mirrors many Latin American traditions in remembering the dead. 

“Latin American countries, obviously you go to the cemetery, honor them, decorate their place of rest, but at the same time, there’s also you go to Mass,” Sanchéz said. 

Ramírez recognizes that this celebration might not be a joyful experience for everyone, but she said it can be part of the healing process for grieving individuals.  

“It is a safe space even for those who are not ready to celebrate a recent loss to know that their loved ones are here with us,” Ramírez said.  

Ramírez hopes the event helps students develop a deeper appreciation for life and realize that their mundane tasks can leave a lasting impact.  

“It is important to stay kind and be respectful to others because how you are today is the way you will be remembered,” Ramírez said.  

Hoegan said the University dedicates another event in November to honoring the dead. 

“Like many parishes, the University does a specific Mass to honor people who have died within the past year as a ministry of presence to those students, faculty and staff who have lost somebody significant to them within the past year,” Hoegan said.  

All are welcome to attend this year’s Mass of Remembrance, which will be celebrated by the Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J. Sunday, Nov. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in Madonna Della Strada Chapel.