University of Notre Dame mourns death of 20 year-old student

The late Declan Sullivan and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame's campus
The late Declan Sullivan and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame's campus


The University Notre Dame recently held a memorial Mass for a 20 year-old film student who died on the school's football field last week after a structure he was videotaping from fell over.

Junior Declan Sullivan, a member of the university's Department of Athletics video crew, was filming football practice on Wednesday, Oct. 27, when a hydraulic scissor lift at the LaBar Practice Complex toppled.

The incident is currently being investigated by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Notre Dame Security Police Department.

Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins said Oct. 28 that there “is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students.”

“There is certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or brother,” he added. “It is with a sense of that double sadness that, on behalf our university, I express our deepest condolences to Declan’s family, friends and classmates.”

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters the school's football game against the University of Tulsa would continued as planned on Saturday, in Sullivan’s memory. Players wore decals on their helmets commemorating Sullivan and a moment of silence preceded the coin toss.

“Our focus is on the team, and on Declan,” Swarbrick said. “There is an intensity that attaches to the experience of being part of a team and an athletic program. Declan is part of that program. And so, the sorrow that is felt is even greater.”

In a homily given at an Oct. 28 Mass of Remembrance for Sullivan in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Thomas Doyle recalled the young man's life and passion for film.

“Declan was a story teller,” Fr. Doyle said. “And while Declan could tell a good tale and write a captivating essay . . . his preferred medium for story telling was through the lens of a camera. Capturing the texture of life on film was the passion and the way that Declan created stories that gave meaning and orientation to life.”

“Those who did not know Declan may be inclined to say that capturing stories through the lens of a camera was what ultimately robbed him of life,” he added. “But those who know him will summarily reject such a myopic byline because you know that telling stories through the lens of a camera is how Declan lived.”

“Every time we experience death, and particularly yesterday in the wake of Declan’s passing – we encounter one of those foreign, unthinkable, hard to imagine events,” Fr. Doyle said.

“Despite the feelings of loss and disorientation, tonight’s stories, and the story of our being here together tell us: We are loved . . . and we are not alone. The divine scripture, this crowded basilica, those holding vigil outside, the body and blood of Christ that we share not only remind us, but they show us in high drama: that we are loved … and we are not alone.”

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