Mass celebrates joys, struggles of late residence director


memorial Mass for a former Gaming-based residence director was celebrated Saturday in a packed chapel that was filled to standing room only.  

The Mass was celebrated for Shamaya “Sha” Smith, 30, who passed away Dec. 20, 2019, after being diagnosed about half a year prior with stage-3 ovarian cancer. The Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, and concelebrated by six other priests. It was attended by her mother Marsha Smith, her sister Marielle Weston and many students and staff whose lives she had touched, as well as others who came in solidarity.  

The Rev. Matt Russick, TOR, homilist, spoke to Smith’s depth of joy and struggle in her battle with cancer. He began by reading a poem she wrote a little over a year ago about loving and letting go when she lost her grandmother. 

“She did not run from the difficulties of life,” said Russick. He said that many people testified to how Smith had walked with them through the messiness of life.  

“In that way,” he said, “she was like her Lord — our Lord, our Savior, Jesus — who doesn’t stay away from the messiness.”  

Russick read some testimonies of Smith’s friends and acknowledged her strength and goodness, even in the midst of her sadness.  

Russick said, “I don’t think she would want us to run and just simply celebrate her goodness, which is apparent, but to look at the difficult questions.” 

“This goodness and this joy coexisted in her with suffering and pain. … How can that coexist with decay? I think that’s the mystery of the resurrection and the risen life. And it is our hope,” said Russick. “We can’t really make sense of this. It’s hard to make sense of. But I think what we take consolation in is that his mercies are renewed every morning.” 

At the end of Mass, the Handmaids of the Lord household, to which Smith belonged, received a plaque in memory of Smith, which had been blessed by Pivonka. 

Pivonka concluded by saying, “Before St. Francis’ death, he said, ‘I have done what the Lord had me do. May he now reveal to you what is yours to do.’ Obviously, Sha has done what the Lord intended her to do, and now it’s ours to figure out what God has for us.”