By Madison Weber ’23, Staff Writer and Social Media Editor
As students return to campus this fall, they may notice something new in the quad between Campus Center and the Lavery Library. A large wooden pole with words inscribed in it — although many students may only be able to recognize one or two of the languages included.
In 2020, St. John Fisher College’s Campus Ministry placed a new peace pole in the quad, but were unable to hold a ceremony due to the pandemic. For the 19 years prior, there had been a wooden Peace Pole in honor of the college’s Director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Paul English, to celebrate unity and diversity on campus.
Construction of the new pole was supported by the college’s Jennifer Koon Fund. The Jennifer Koon fund is in honor of Fisher student, Jennifer Koon, who was tragically killed and raped at 18 in Pittsford in 1995. Each year, the Campus Ministry uses the funds to spread peace and love on campus.
According to the Peace Pole Project, the peace pole is a “symbol of the hopes and dreams of the entire human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth.” They are typically four or six sided, and have “May Peace Prevail on Earth” inscribed on them in different languages. With over 250,000 Peace Poles in every country they aim to “remind us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony” while standing “as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth.”
The new pole seems to point up towards the sky, something Father Kevin Mannara says was intentional.“It’s a pole that points up as peace brings us to a higher level, something higher that we can aspire to. Our common humanity can flourish with peace.”
Planning for the new Peace Pole started in 2019, when the ministry polled students and faculty on what languages they would like to see included on the pole. When they received over 40 responses, they were able to narrow it down to 12 languages. These selected languages were felt to best represent the diversity at Fisher.
- Latin- official language of Roman Catholic Church
- Aramaic- the language spoken by Jesus
- Hebrew- language meaningful to Jewish members of SJFC, prayers for peace in Jerusalem
- Arabic- Requested by SJFC Muslim students, represent partnership with educational institutions in Egypt
- Seneca- the college is on Seneca land
- Sign Language- Rochester has a prominent deaf community
- English- most widely spoken language in the area
- Spanish- second most widely spoken language in area
- Gaelic- SJFC has an Irish studies program, and a reminder of our relationship with our sister city, Waterford
- Italian- language of a major immigrant group in area, still widely spoken
- German- language of major immigrant group who settled in the area
- Swahili- significant projects for the Schools of Nursing & Pharmacy happen in Swahili speaking areas
The pole also has a braille plaque for visually impaired individuals.
According to the plaque next to the pole, the Campus Ministry hoped to equip students “with the vision, knowledge, and skills to positively engage difference, so that peace may prevail on earth.” The plaque goes on to say, the Peace Pole “brings together people of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures to embrace and celebrate the unity of the human family amidst the rich tapestry of our diversity.”
Mannara hopes the pole becomes “a visual reminder of something that we stand for. Our values of diversity and inclusion. Peace is something that we can all strive for.” Mannara refers to peace as “something we can all agree on regardless of religion due to our shared humanity.” He reminds students that peace must be intentional, rather than something simply wished for.
In the future, the Campus Ministry hopes to build a peace and meditation garden that holds the Peace Pole in honor of Jennifer Koon. Mananara encourages students to take this semester to become active in the campus ministry by reaching out to a peer mentor, ministry faculty, or attending Sunday night mass.