Bishop Mark Hanson's Remarks
Remarks from the memorial service for Pamela Jolicoeur by the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
I greet you this day in the strong name of Jesus, crucified and risen. I have come on behalf of the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to express deep condolences to you Mike and Jessica and Eleanor, all beloved family members of Pam. To the entire Concordia community that has lost a president that exemplified excellence. To the members of Trinity Lutheran Church used to seeing Pam and Mike those days they were in town in the pew confessing sins, hearing absolution, receiving God’s grace through word and bread and wine. To California Lutheran University who has lost such a significant teacher and leader and to every one of us who has treasured Pam’s wisdom, her energy, her vision, her faith and her leadership.
The day of Pam’s death the assigned reading in the little devotional book called “Bread for the Day” came from Jeremiah, the eighth chapter. The prophet’s words starkly captured our mood. The prophet wrote: “My joy is gone. Grief is upon me. My heart is sick.” Bonhoeffer once described that profound feeling of emptiness that death leaves deep within us. He said that emptiness is only going to be partially filled with memories and gratitude, but there will be a dull ache that remains that will remind you and us of the greatness of our loss and the depth of our love. I have no doubt that here and throughout the church for a long time we will carry a dull ache that reminds us of the depth of our love and the greatness of our loss.
We speak often these days about the generosity of God. It sounds like a wonderful phrase, but sometimes people in the midst of all their preoccupation with what they lack needs some evidence of God’s generosity. Well, just cast an eye on Pam Jolicoeur. God was mighty abundant when God passed out gifts to this woman and we are the beneficiaries of God’s generosity through her.
So how shall we honor her life? Well, it would be my prayer that Pam’s clear and passionate articulation of a case for Lutheran higher education as education for vocation would continue to resound in us and through us. It would be my prayer that we honor her life by trying at least to model our leadership after hers. That steely steady resolve to remain firmly committed to the church, while at the same time responsive to our complex and often conflicted world, while at the same time nurturing an unquenchable curiosity deep within us that frees us to ask questions that transcend the moment, while at the same time engaging in deep listening to others, paying particular attention to the voices of those who don’t simply echo what we have been saying.
I have been thinking a lot these days about how Pam has shaped and influenced my leadership. Her amazing ability to be imaginative about new future possibilities while honoring and being shaped by living memory passed on from generation to generation. Her unique skill in a leadership that’s immediately responsive to the suffering of our neighbor and if it means the president gets out there and sandbags, the president gets out there and sandbags. If it calls for the voice of a president to call for the release of a prisoner from an Iranian jail or the release of those who are in prison to poverty and injustice, her voice was heard throughout the world. And yet, at the same time, saying how can we strengthen this college. Let’s move towards creating a business program within the liberal arts framework. Let’s lift up leadership in the church as church vocation. And oh, by the way, let’s finish off that 100 million and I think Pam would want me to tell you honor her life by raising another 100 million.
I will never forget, because I have held it close for years, the moment when Pam and I walked off the platform at the conclusion of a service Concordia held giving thanks to God for the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican. Now I know Concordia pretty well from a dad that was dean of students here, dean of men and two sisters that went here and you’ve got to say in Concordia’s history it wouldn’t be the first college in the church you think that would host Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops, but Pam made sure that Concordia did and that service was a celebration of reconciliation. And as we walked off tears streamed down her cheek and she said, “now we have publicly began to reconcile what has never been irreconcilable within my life and that’s the gifts of being formed in Roman Catholic tradition and now formed in Lutheran confessional tradition and seeing those as wonderfully diverse expressions of one faith and one church.” How we can honor her by embracing her understanding that unity is always within diversity.
I want to say to each of you in the Concordia community I pledge on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America I lead that we will accompany you in your grieving, in your lamenting, in your beginning to ask questions how does this college go forward without the one who so embodied and energized and led us. My one word of advice: Don’t try to replace Pam Jolicoeur. There is not another one on the face of the earth. But God will provide leadership for you. And when that dull ache gets so heavy that all one can do is cry out as Jesus did, “why, why God,” let us pledge to remind each other that we are Easter people. A people who arise every morning as did Pam, even the morning of her death, to the promise that God spoke to her in her Baptism when God said “Pam, you are my child. I will love you steadfastly, for Jesus’ sake I will forgive you mercifully, on the last day I will raise you up to new life in Christ eternally.” For this child of God, Pam Jolicoeur, gifted servant, our hearts are overflowing with gratitude and grief. Thank you, Lord, for this your servant. Amen.
Video Archive (full service)
Bishop Mark Hanson
video | written
Dr. Paul Dovre
video | written
Rev. Stephen Wold
video | written
Sue Kremser (family)
video | written