On May 3, 2012, I was watching the evening news and learned that an Episcopal priest and an administrative assistant had been shot, at their church, by a homeless person. No names were given. Over the course of the next week, more information surfaced. Apparently, the shooter had a history of approaching the church for assistance but became agitated after being told he had to limit his visits to the food pantry so others could benefit as well. He killed the two women and then killed himself.
At first, I felt horrified that such a tragedy had occurred, but I was able to distance myself. I could offer prayers for the repose of their souls and prayers for their families and friends, but I did not know anyone involved. Or so I thought. When the names of those involved became public, the pain became personal. I knew Mary Marguerite Kohn. She was my friend.
Mary Marguerite, or MM, was a graduate of the PhD program in pastoral counseling. While she was preparing to defend her dissertation, she spent hours and hours in the doctoral lounge entering data and reviewing and revising her work. At that same time, I was using the office directly across the hall to help with the copy editing of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion. MM would come in frequently to visit with me and to offer support because she knew I sometimes got impatient with the pace of the academic requirements. The process seemed to take so long! She told me many times that perseverance was the key to success and to keep plugging away. She set a wonderful model in that respect.
After she graduated, she became an affiliate professor at Loyola and at Fordham and sometimes consulted with me about online education. She had a great love for her students and was deeply invested in their success. I recall an extended email conversation about the cost of materials for one of her courses where she examined every possible way to keep the costs down and the quality high. In addition to her kindness, I remember her intense energy, her easy laughter, and her generosity. While I feel very sad about her death, I am also very, very grateful that I had the chance to know her.
Eternal rest grant unto her, oh Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul and the souls of all the
faithful departed, through the mercy
of God, rest in peace.