While the town of State College, Penn., continues to cope with the heartache resulting from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, area pastors continue to pray for the families of the two former Penn State football coaches who are at the center of it all.
Sandusky, a former Penn State University defensive coordinator, is now awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse charges in June. Outside Beaver Stadium, the famous statue bearing the likeness of the late Joe Paterno has been torn down. The university has been hit hard by NCAA sanctions, and new leadership has taken over after university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz were stripped of their positions.
It is a trying time in State College, but James P. Nolten, senior pastor of Park Forest Baptist Church, says the university will "bounce back."
"I've been a pastor in State College, Pa., for 30 years now, and I can tell you that Penn State Pride is much bigger than Paterno, Sandusky, Schultz, Curley, and Spanier combined," said Nolten in an email to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Nolten's church hasn't directly contacted anyone in the Paterno or Sandusky families, but he says area pastors have been supporting them through prayer.
"The people in our church are concerned, however, they have no immediate contact with the Paterno or Sandusky families. I know the evangelical pastors in State College have been praying for both families," said Nolten.
Ronald C. Miller Jr., lead pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, told CP via email on Thursday that the Sandusky scandal is "often referred to in sermons," and is discussed in a variety of other church settings as well. He too says area churches should pray for the Sandusky and Paterno families, but he is trusting the families' pastors, priests and fellow congregants to care for them directly.
Just days after Sandusky's conviction was announced in June, his pastor, Ed Zeiders of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, told CNN he had been ministering to the Sandusky family during the trial. The Christian Post was unable to reach Zeiders for further comment.
Leaders of Catholic Campus Ministry, the church attended by the Paterno family, were also unavailable for comment. The ministry currently gathers on campus in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which it shares with dozens of other groups from a variety of other religions, but not for long. The ministry is in the process of building The Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center, which is named after Paterno's wife, near campus.
It will take a while for the community to recover from the scandal, Miller said, but he also believes children will benefit from increased safety measures that area organizations will likely take as an indirect result of the scandal.
Nolten also believes the university, the community and the football team under new head coach Bill O'Brien will make a comeback.
"There's an overwhelming majority of wonderful people here in Happy Valley, and it's a great place to live as any alumnus will testify," said Nolten. "Coach O'Brien has been doing a phenomenal job and has everyone around here excited about the upcoming season regardless of the NCAA punishments. I predict Beaver Stadium will be filled with enthusiastic fans come September."