|Shooting victim was living out her call, family says|
Five students were killed Feb. 14 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb by a lone gunman who later committed suicide.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Northern Illinois University.
By Paul Black*
Feb. 15, 2008 | SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (UMNS)
Nineteen-year-old Ryanne Mace was always interested in helping people.
A top student, Mace’s interests were diverse. The Northern Illinois
University sophomore was living out her sense of call, working at the
local Elder-Beerman department store and studying to become a
psychologist/case worker at the school’s campus in DeKalb, Ill.
Just before Valentine's Day, she had posted a message to her friends
on her MySpace page, according to a news report: "Happy Valentine's Day
Everybody! ... Saying you love someone is not enough, it's how you treat
them that shows your true feelings."
Mace, of Carpentersville, Ill., was one of five students killed Feb.
14 in Cole Hall Auditorium as she attended a geology class at Northern
Illinois. She was remembered in news reports as a top student with an
avid interest in music, an accomplished violinist and a choral singer.
She was the granddaughter of the Rev. Eugene and Sally Ann Mace of
Washington, Ill., and the Rev. Miley and Janet Palmer of Decatur, Ill.
Both pastors are retired United Methodist clergy members in the church’s
Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference.
Family and friends said Mace wanted to make a difference in her
world. "She would throw herself into a variety of things," said the Rev.
Miley Palmer. "She felt most fulfilled when she was helping others."
Despite spending part of his pastoral career in campus ministries,
Rev. Palmer said the recent tragedies at Northern Illinois and Virginia
Tech last April are a new phenomenon.
"These events seem to grab the headlines," he said. "Certainly, there
have always been tragedies on campus, but the sniper syndrome is fairly
new and it’s scary. Unfortunately, it seems to overshadow the lives of
college students, who seem to be returning to a time of idealism and
asking the tough questions as to what are the anchors in life."
Palmer retired in 1998 as pastor of Decatur Grace United Methodist
Church after serving six years as a district superintendent and nine
years as pastor of Urbana Wesley United Methodist Church and director of
the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois. Rev. Mace retired
in 1999 after 25 years with Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, the last
11 as director of pastoral care.
Call to prayer
Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, who leads the Illinois Great Rivers
conference where Mace's grandfathers served, called on the church to
offer prayers on behalf of the family.
"I am horrified and saddened by the tragic and senseless death of
Ryanne Mace, one so full of life with a promising future still ahead of
her. During the coming days, I know you will join me in prayer
for the families and friends touched by her death and blessed by her
life," Christopher said.
Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher
"I hope you will also join me in serious reflection about how we, the
church, might contribute to the ending of the anger, rage, and
violence in our society that has contributed not only to Ryanne's
death but the deaths of many not only on the NIU campus but in our
schools throughout our country," the bishop said.
Mace's parents, Eric and Mary Kay Mace, began calling on the evening
of Feb. 14 to check on their daughter’s safety after hearing about the
campus shooting. The school’s cell phone tower had been shut down by the
flurry of calls on campus. Later, the Maces reached their daughter’s
roommate, who confirmed that she had a class in Cole Hall at the time of
According to eyewitness reports, a gunman dressed in a black shirt,
dark pants and black hat came out from behind a curtain in the
auditorium shortly after 3 p.m. and opened fire, sending the 160
students screaming, running, and in many cases falling to the ground. In
all, 21 people were injured with five killed before the shooter turned
the gun on himself.
In addition to Mace, the victims were Daniel Parmenter, 20, of
Westchester; Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Julianna Gehant, 32, of
Mendota; and Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream.
On Feb. 15, authorities identified the shooter as Stephen P.
Kazmierczak of Champaign, a graduate student at the University of
Illinois. Kazmierczak used a shotgun hidden in a guitar case and three
handguns hidden under a coat, according to university Police Chief
Donald Grady. Kazmierczak had been a student at Northern Illinois as
late as the spring 2007 term and had received an undergraduate degree in
sociology in 2006.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the school honored the
gunman two years ago for his research on the U.S. prison system, which
included a study of self-inflicted wounds among prisoners.
Comforting one another
Meanwhile in DeKalb, the director of the Wesley Foundation at
Northern Illinois said no students involved in the campus ministry were
among the dead or injured.
"Most of them have returned home to be with their families," said the
Rev. Efrain Avila Jr. "There have been and will continue to be
professional counseling and spiritual guidance at each residence hall
and academic building at Northern Illinois University. The Wesley
Foundation at DeKalb will continue to be part of those efforts."
Avila expressed thanks for prayers and messages of concern from
throughout The United Methodist Church. He asked for continued prayers
for the students, families, university staff and first responders.
A community prayer service was held Feb. 15 at First United Methodist
Church of DeKalb, and another prayer vigil was scheduled for the
evening of Feb. 15 at Sycamore (Ill.) United Methodist Church. The
Wesley Foundation will hold its prayer vigil at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 at
First United Methodist Church of DeKalb, about two miles from the
Updates on vigils, memorial services and help for families of those affected will be available at www.firstumc.net, the Web site for the First United Methodist Church of DeKalb/Wesley Foundation.
Funeral services for Ryanne Mace will be at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 at
Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, with visitation
from noon until service time. Willow Funeral Home, 1415 W. Algonquin,
Algonquin, Ill., is in charge of arrangements. The guest book is
available at http://www.legacy.com/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=103473835.
*Black is director of communications for the Illinois Great Rivers
Conference of The United Methodist Church. Susan Dal Porto, director of
communications for the Northern Illinois Conference, contributed to this
News media contact: Tim Tanton or Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Dundee-Crown High reacts to NIU shooting death of 2006 graduate
Gunman's rampage baffles friends
Gunman opens fire in lecture hall
Managing your distress in the aftermath of shooting
Commentary: Reflections on the Virginia Tech tragedy
Northern Illinois University
Northern Star (campus newspaper)
Northern Illinois University Wesley Foundation
First United Methodist Church of DeKalb
Northern Illinois Conference
Illinois Great Rivers Conference