Remembrance mass for Berkeley students held in New York

Irish consul tells 1,800 mourners, including 400 J-1 students, of ‘unspeakable grief’

About 1,800 people, including an estimated 400 J-1 students, attended a remembrance mass in New York City for the six students killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse in California.

The mass at St Patrick's Cathedral on Thursday night was attended by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Bishop Gerald Walsh of New York and the Irish Consul General in New York Barbara Jones.

Delivering the eulogy, Ms Jones thanked the Irish students working on J-1 summer visas in New York who read prayers of the faithful at the service.

“Many of the victims were your school or your college friends or friends of your friends,” she said. “I hope you feel the loving support of this great church community as it comforts you in your grief away from home.”


The Irish consul paid tribute to the students killed in the accident: Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Olivia Burke and Lorcán Miller, who were all from Dublin, and Ms Burke's Irish-American cousin, Ashley Donohoe from Rohnert Park in California.

She referred to the heartbreaking funerals of the deceased over the past week, in the US and across Dublin, in Foxrock, Rathgar, Rathfarnham and Rathmichael.

Ireland was “deeply upset by the tragic circumstances of these deaths and by the loss of such young, talented people”, she told the congregation.

“We have been moved to tears by the unspeakable grief of their families and by the testimony of teachers and friends to their qualities,” she said in the homily.

"And we have been filled with pride by the dignity and professionalism of the priests and the people who care for the victims and their families and friends in San Francisco through this crisis."

Ms Jones said that the tragedy connects with tens of thousands who, like she once did, signed up for the J-1 visa programme to travel to the US to work and spend time with friends.

“Every single one of us can relate to the hopes these young people had for themselves, the dream of meeting our potential to the full: the intention of rolling up our sleeves to build our future and to be happy and loved,” she said.

People in Sonoma, Dublin and across the US had gathered to pray for the victims and for healing comfort for their families, paying tribute to the ability of the Irish-American community - “a transatlantic family” - to care and comfort.

“Our community’s reaction to these tragic deaths has revealed our best selves both to ourselves and to the world: our hallmark kindness, our resilience in dealing with loss and adversity,” said Ms Jones.

The six students were enjoying a 21st birthday party in the early hours of June 16th when the balcony they were standing on collapsed.

Seven others were injured in the collapse, a number seriously. Two of the injured have since been discharged from Californian hospitals.

Ms Walsh (21), Mr Schuster (21) and Mr Miller (21) were students at UCD. Mr Culligan (21) studied at Dublin Institute of Technology, Ms Burke (21) at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and Ms Donohoe (22) at Sonoma State University.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times