“For everyone, whether a believer or an unbeliever, death packs a punch,” said Father Daniel F. Swift to an overflowing congregation of mourners in St. Benedict Church at the May 19 Mass of Christian Burial of Lauren Katherine Hewski. “It knocks us to the mat … but we believers get up.”

Miss Hewski, a graduating senior in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, was killed in an automobile accident in Colts Neck May 11. An hour earlier she had earned her associate degree from Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, as a member of SJVHS’s Early College Academy. The Aberdeen resident was 18.

Father Swift, pastor, St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, served as principal celebrant and homilist of the teen’s funeral Mass; he had befriended the Hewski family while serving as pastor of St. Benedict Parish from 2005 to 2015. Concelebrating the liturgy were Father Thomas Vala, pastor of St. Clement Parish, Matawan, and St. Benedict Parish clergy Father Garry R. Koch, pastor, and parochial vicar, Father Augusto Gamalo, who also serves as SJVHS chaplain.

“We are believers in the Resurrection,” Father Swift continued in his homily. “Where do we go from here? I’m not going anywhere, for there is no more comforting place to be than with the Lord, who has conquered death, at Mass, near the Eucharist.”

Noting the strong faith in God manifested by Lauren’s parents, he said, “Everything that happens in this life is a part of God’s plan, and before you say, ‘How can you say such a thing in front of her parents?’ well, I had a very good conversation with Kim and Dennis Sunday night at their kitchen table, and they believe it.”

In ancient Rome, crucifixion was the worst death known to man, Father Swift said, “but today we cling to the Cross, and everyone has a Rosary in their pocket. We find so much comfort in it because we are believers … Death did not get the last word here. Christ, who says, ‘I am the resurrection’ always gets the last word.”

According to her published obituary, Miss Hewski excelled in both academics and sports. While at SJVHS, she was a member of the National Honor Society, class president, class secretary, and a four-year Varsity soccer player and co-captain.

In her community, she was an active member of Girl Scouts of America, serving on the CEO Advisory Board and as a Council Delegate for the Sandy Hook Region. The teen also earned her Bronze and Silver Awards and was working toward completing the prestigious Gold Award.

In addition, she was on U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr’s Youth Advisory Council, working on policy agendas for immigration and homelessness, and was an active volunteer for the Raine Foundation. This fall, Miss Hewski planned to attend Syracuse University.

St. John Vianney head girls soccer coach Heather Bailey warmly remembered Miss Hewski as being a standout in athletics as a four-year varsity soccer player for the Lancers; although her career was marred by injuries.

“This is just a tragic accident that led to the death of a beautiful young lady,” Bailey said. “She was a highly talented, skillful and competitive player.”

Miss Hewski played both center back and outside back and was considered by Bailey “a dominant force defensively,” who also had a high soccer IQ. She scored her first varsity goal as a freshman against Neptune and earned a starting berth as a sophomore.

“She was a natural leader, who expected all players to compete as hard as they could,” the coach noted, then added that unfortunately, Miss Hewski’s season was cut short by a torn ACL, meniscus and other ligaments in her knee. After undergoing surgery and physical therapy, she returned for her junior year but another injury during the summer preseason workouts required more surgery.

“Lauren showed her true heart and determination by coming back to play at the end of her junior season,” Bailey said.

“She was a hard worker and loved the sport of soccer,” Bailey said, then told of Miss Hewski’s enduring another injury in the same knee which prohibited her from playing her senior year. But she was still named a co-captain and served as an assistant player-coach on the sidelines.

“She was still a major part of our season despite not being able to play,” Bailey said. “She attended all practices and games and was someone the players respected and appreciated.

“Lauren was the epitome of a student-athlete and she will always be a part of the SJV soccer family and school,” Bailey said. “Lauren will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know her. God bless her and her family.” 

Miss Hewski is predeceased by her grandfather, Gerard Mennona, and survived by her parents, Dennis and Kimberly (Mennona) Hewski; her grandparents; her aunts, uncles and cousins and extended family and friends. Cremation was private. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the GoFundMe “Keep Lauren’s Light Shining Bright” page.