A Tribute by Scott Losavio
Jeff Nola was the face of Christ for me and so many others. As a friend, teacher, minister, colleague, brother, son, and husband, Jeff shared Christ’s love with everyone he knew.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
If you knew Jeff, you knew him completely because he always gave you every bit of himself. Jeff was not one to hold back. He was not afraid to be vulnerable, courageous, and honest not only with those close to him but with anyone who knew him at all. And if you knew Jeff, you also know the Father because Jeff loved so freely and abundantly.
Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Jeff always attracted students to him who did not feel a strong connection to other groups at school. They knew they’d find in Jeff someone who would love them for who they were, without judgment or conditions. All of Jeff’s friends came to him for the same reason. We all had a sense that Jeff would lead us through the gate. It was not always a straight path, but Jeff trusted it. Countless students, friends, family, and peers heard Jeff’s voice and followed because in his unique way he knew where he was going. Nearly every year he sponsored a student for Confirmation. And he walked faithfully with his wife Laura through R.C.I.A. as her sponsor. He knew the shepherd’s voice and he led others to it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
After Jeff became Campus Minister at CHS, his office became a counseling center for many of us. People always went to Jeff with their problems, but his new role made his ministry official. Jeff’s amazing gift was to be a great listener without feeding anyone’s anger, jealousy, or pettiness. It was true grace to have someone allow you the space to vent and then send you away without any steam.
Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.
I will never forget Jeff’s excitement when school’s administration encouraged him to be a prophet in his role as Campus Minister. Jeff liked to challenge people’s pre-conceived notions and stretch them beyond their comfort zones. However, he did not care much for confrontations. So he preferred to be “a little edgy” instead of aggressive or bold. Even in this past year when Jeff was unable to work full time, he spent hours crafting an email to the faculty to explain the Church’s view on Islam after a minister in Florida threatened to burn the Qur’an. No matter what Jeff ever said or wrote, his prophetic voice was loud and clear in the way he lived and loved.
And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
We all watched Jeff grow in wisdom and maturity over the years. It was no accident. Jeff took personal growth seriously. Every year he set new goals for himself-physical, professional, and especially spiritual. The Campus Ministry office is filled with spiritual books Jeff read; these books are filled with his notes. Jeff knew himself well. In fact, he was almost too comfortable in his own skin. This caught most people off guard because so many of us aren’t able to be that way. Jeff’s unique sense of humor, often self-deprecating, was a product of his self-awareness, comfort, and wisdom.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
In the midst of all kinds of small challenges, Jeff was always able to stay focused on the big picture. That’s probably why he struggled at times with less significant rules. It might have been easy to assume a nap on a cushion meant a lack of concern for Jeff, but I believe Jeff’s faith was too strong to get worked up over a little storm. We all saw Jeff face the biggest storm of his life this past year, and he never wavered. Jeff never stopped working to share his peace during the storm with those he loved. He trusted God with all of it, big and small.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Jeff loved his nephews Nicholas and Luke like no one else in his life. He talked about them all the time. He rarely missed opportunities to be with them. He treated them like the rest of us treat our own. That’s why all our children were drawn to him. They saw his love right away, and they knew it was genuine. In April, my son spent the day with me at school because he wasn’t feeling well. The day concluded with a pep rally. As the faculty gathered in the back of the gym for the rally, my son gravitated instantly toward Jeff. Jeff was worn out from a busy day and sat down against the wall. My son, also tired, sat next to Jeff and placed his head down on him. Jeff was always there for us when we were tired, when we were sad or angry, when we were full of joy, when we needed a laugh.
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
All who have been touched by Jeff’s presence could offer countless stories of how they experienced Christ’s love through him. I pray we continue to share these memories with one another as we seek to honor a man who lived such a beautiful, inspirational life.
Thank you, Jeff Nola, for revealing Christ to us. You were truly one of a kind. We will always love you and miss you. May you rest peacefully with God in heaven for all eternity. You earned it.