Anne Marie Gieske: A bright soul lost in Seoul

Abbey Cutrer, Asst. Photo Editor

The Holy Spirit Parish Catholic Newman Center mourned a light in its community after the death of UK student and Newman Center member Anne Marie Gieske.

Gieske, a third year nursing major at UK, started her study abroad program in August 2022. She celebrated her 20th birthday by the Han River in Seoul, South Korea. Just a day after blowing out her candles, she died in a deadly crowd surge.

The Newman Center, located on UK’s campus, hosted a prayer service and memorial Mass Thursday, Nov. 3, with a turnout of around 120 people, according to Newman Center staff members.
As members of the campus community gathered to pray and reflect on Gieske’s life, many referenced the light she was in their lives.

“We (the Newman Center) have this really heavy air and really heavy hearts, but then there’s the other side; there’s no doubt in our mind that she’s with the Lord,” Leah Tepe, a friend of Gieske and campus ministry coordinator at the Center, said.

The Mass started after guests had the opportunity to pin photos of Gieske on a memorial wall.

Following several gospel readings, Father Ben Horn delivered a homily and a short message about Gieske.

“Anne Marie was different; she wasn’t like just anyone else. Maybe you only knew her for a few moments, but if you look, you too will see it. You’ll find that light she had. Did you first notice her quiet humility or her profound kindness?” Horn asked the crowd.

Additionally, Gieske’s discipleship leader, Kelly Steichen, shared stories of Gieske’s faith and hopes in life. Steichen said Gieske’s dream was to be a mother.

“Anne’s faith was a faith with the simplicity and the joy of a child, with the greatest desire to be (a) mother,” Steichen said.

Steichen said Gieske spoke about this dream frequently. She said humans were not created to grieve, and the Newman Center is doing its best to grasp something that cannot be understood.

“Her dream was almost too big for this world,” Steichen said.

Horn concluded his homily with a word of encouragement to the church.

“All of us know that Anne Marie is a testament that this life is worth living. Wherever the ups and downs of Anne Marie, whatever struggles she had, her life was a life of hope, so I will not say ‘Do not weep,’ for not all tears are evil,” Horn said. “Let your tears be filled with that same hope that made Anne Marie all she was and all she is.”

The Lord’s Prayer followed the homily, with the breaking of bread after. During Communion, the hymn “Ave Maria” played, which is often used as a meditative hymn.

Other family, friends and mentors shared their thoughts about Gieske’s death.

“What I can tell you is that Anne was a loving light that was extinguished far too soon,” Samantha Gieske, her aunt, said.

Anne Marie Gieske’s former high school band director at Beechwood High School, Austin Bralley, posted his condolences on Instagram.

“She lit up the room. She was magnetic, you know, everyone loved to be around her,” Bralley said.

Gieske’s mother, Madonna Gieske, posted on Facebook about her daughter’s death, saying “this is not the end.”

“Jesus brought my baby daughter Anne Marie to his side on Oct 29, 2022. Please pray for our family. Because of the love of Jesus, while we are devastated, we are not destroyed,” Madonna Gieske said.