This past Wednesday marked the start of the Lenten season, a 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Christians are asked to reflect on their own sins and the consequences of those sins. Coincidentally, many members of Calvert House, the University's Catholic campus center, also woke up Wednesday morning to face an immediate and personal crisis: The resignation of Father Michael Yakaitis over a recently-publicized sexual relationship from 15 years ago.
In the week since Father Yakaitis' sudden departure, many members of the Calvert community have experienced a roller-coaster ride of emotions, ranging from shock and anger to sadness and conflict. For many of us, Father Mike (as we all knew him) was an ideal priest, and it always hurts to discover that your ideal is less than perfect. But, at the same time, the Father Mike that we all know bears no resemblance to the abusive predator portrayed on the nightly news. While many of us are saddened to learn of Father Mike's personal demons, the general consensus is that most of us think no less of him now that his past indiscretions have served as headlines in newspapers across the country. As a community we have forgiven Father Mike for his mistakes, and have come together to praise his leadership. In our opinion, the best way to honor a good man, even if he is fallen, is to carry on his legacy. And Calvert House will survive and continue to thrive not in spite of Father Mike, but because of Father Mike.
In his short three-and-a-half-year tenure at Calvert House, Father Mike was instrumental in establishing a variety of new programs, among them a Spanish-language mass, undergraduate and graduate dinners, bible studies, and a discussion group for gay Catholics. Under his watch, membership at Calvert House grew so substantially that currently Catholics constitute the largest religious denomination on campus. This quick spurt of growth was fueled by Father Mike, both by his innate ability to make religion applicable to our everyday lives and his hands-off leadership style that facilitated participation from students. For many of us, he was a perfect priest for a college campus, and his presence will be sorely missed. But during his time here Father Mike imparted to all of us many of his greatest attributes. He helped us grow into a tight-knit community, a community so tight and so dedicated that there is no danger of Calvert House falling into disarray. The programs instituted by Father Mike will continue, and the community spirit he fostered will persist.
Throughout the past few years, Father Mike has taught each one of us in the Calvert House community innumerable lessons, and in leaving he passed on his greatest lesson of all: that despite past injustices, however grave they may be, a man can change for the better. And, regardless of even a great mistake, a human life still has potential to do great good. Father Mike Yakaitis is in many ways a tragic character, but in every way a meaningful influence on so many of our lives. It will take a while to get over the shock, and the healing process will be arduous, but we will never forget him. And while most of us will never see Father Mike again, all of us will carry on his vision, compassion, and good deeds as we continue to make Calvert House an important part of our lives.