Eight years ago today Shane Colligan, a journalism student at St. Bonaventure University and a friend to many of us died to this world in his sleep and entered eternal life. Shane was the recipient of a heart transplant, not once but twice over the course of his young life. A native of Wellsville, NY — a small town not far from the campus of St. Bonaventure in rural Western New York, Shane was always the life of the party. His presence was electric and his joy (which at times equaled silliness) was infectious.
My memories of Shane often focus on his ability to bring the staff of the university newspaper together in a way that only the best editor could, while also leading the group of young journalists to fun times at parties that became instantly classic. Shane worked hard and he played hard too. And we all miss him very much.
It was a shock to find out about his death. It rocked our campus and it rocked our world, especially those closest to him. One of my classmates, Holly, was dating Shane at the time and it was particularly difficult for her and his roommates. It was also difficult for the faculty of the journalism school where many of us studied at the university. Shane was a very, very good journalist who had an excellent career ahead of him. He was a fine writer and had the instinct of a Pulitzer-Prize Winner to be.
In an article published by The BonaVenture newspaper in 2007 about the campus chapel and its significance for various members of the university community, Dr. Denny Wilkins, professor of journalism, recalled Shane’s memorial service as a powerful experience for him.
Denny Wilkins, associate professor of journalism, had a moving experience in the chapel during a memorial service for the death of a Bonaventure student, Shane Colligan in 2003.
Wilkins was overwhelmed with emotion and collapsed to his knees. Several students helped him up and led him to his seat.
“It is the most remarkable place on campus because of the things that transpire in there. It’s not only a holy space, but a shared space, a milestone space,” Wilkins says. “It invites you to let go of the day for awhile.”
Some years later, Shane’s hometown dedicated a small park in his memory (the photo above includes several of Shane’s friends from SBU at the dedication of the park).
So today I’ll play the song “The General” by the band Dispatch, something I only do on a day like this, and think about the oddly humorous combination of sterno fires and cabbages lit in Shane’s honor in order to roast cocktail hotdogs. I will continue to pray for Shane’s intercession for those young children who are in need of donor organs and for those who have survived transplants — for I consider Shane their patron saint. And Shane’s friends will recall what it was like to be close to him in his earthly life, while we now are drawn close to him in the next.
Rest in peace, Shane, and pray for us.