Nearly 150 USC community members filled the pews of Our Savior Parish Wednesday evening to honor a student who died Sunday.
The student, John Moore, was a senior majoring in cinematic arts and television production at the School of Cinematic Arts.
The Catholic vigil and mass opened with several prayers and hymns, followed by a welcoming from the Rev. Richard Sunwoo. Sunwoo spoke to Moore’s dedication to the world of cinema.
“Movies speak so well to the human connection,” Sunwoo said. “We’ve seen so much loss and tragedy in recent weeks.”
Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni gave a brief speech and asked students to take a moment of silence for Moore.
“John lived a good life, and he was deeply loved here at USC, deeply, deeply loved,” Soni said. “I didn’t have the great privilege of knowing him, but over the last several days, I’ve taken great comfort in stories that I’ve heard about how beloved he was on our campus.”
Soni spoke to how tight-knit the SCA community is and how valuable that can be in times of distress.
“To the students of the School of Cinematic Arts, in my 12 years at USC I have yet to meet a closer group of students on campus than you,” Soni said. “Through your coursework, through your curriculum, through your production work, you spend so much time together in your cohort communities. You work days and nights and weekends together … Please continue to lean on each other.”
Soni emphasized the importance of communal support at the end of his speech.
Since August, there have been at least five student deaths.
“I want all of you here to know that you are loved, that you are seen, that you are heard, that you matter, that you belong, that you are not alone,” he said.
Dave O’Brien, one of Moore’s former production professors, remarked on John’s wit and intellect in the classroom.
“From his love of classic rock to his uncanny ability to drop film and cultural references, his deep appreciation for cinema made John a memorable student and friend,” he said.
Belton McMurray, John’s best friend and freshman-year roommate, recounted emotionally how close he and John became when they met at a summer program their junior year of high school before attending USC. It was obvious that they were each other’s choice roommates, and McMurray said they quickly “became brothers.”
“One thing that we made sure to be was there for each other,” McMurray said. “When, two years ago, my little sister called me and told me that my actual brother had died, the first person — I’m not making this up — the very first person who called me was John Moore.”
Moore’s two older brothers, Patrick and Bobby, closed the vigil by speaking about their memories of John and how much he made them laugh. Bobby shared a story of how their family had attended mass in their hometown of Bodega, Calif., several years ago in St. Teresa of Avila Church where Alfred Hitchock’s “Birds” was filmed.
“There was a bat that was flying all around, and John and I were just watching it, and this bat swooped down,” Bobby said.
In the completely silent church, John let out a yelp. Even through tears, those that attended the mass couldn’t hold back laughter.
“I just want to let you all know that we are all here for you now, too,” Patrick said. “So please, anything that you want to say, anything that you want to come to us and speak about, we will be here.”
Moore’s brothers spoke of how much films mattered to John and of his cinematic dreams for the future.
“John was also a good writer,” Bobby said. “Pat’s going to be finishing the script that they were working on.”