Community of faith in the time of COVID
When disaster strikes, the University of Dayton campus community comes together. It has gathered around the peace pole to pray for those suffering from natural disasters, discrimination and injustice. It assembled in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception to mourn those killed in Dayton’s mass shooting.
But how do you support one another when the disaster is such that gathering in community is dangerous?
Crystal Caruana Sullivan has been thinking about that a lot in the last week, which she said has seemed more like a year. The University announced Tuesday, March 10, that student learning would move online and students would be leaving campus for at least several weeks as part of a state response to slowing the rate of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“My first thought was for the students feeling a sense of being pulled away from campus and community,” said Sullivan, executive director of Campus Ministry. “There’s so much being lost.”
Her second thought was how to help. Since they couldn’t call people into the chapel, the Campus Ministry staff needed to get creative. Primary was the concept of connecting to one another through prayer. “It’s a very small gesture, but it’s how we get through this,” Sullivan said.
The archbishop of Cincinnati canceled Masses through Easter Sunday, April 12, to keep parishioners from coming in close contact that could spread the new novel coronavirus. It means no more Masses this Lenten season, whose journey began with a reading from Matthew 4:1-11 and the story of Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days. It’s an allegory, Sullivan said, but this year it’s a passage with new meaning for all those suffering through the pandemic.
“Now our Lenten journey is, literally, starving for community and the Eucharist,” Sullivan said.
Campus Ministry is making available opportunities for the campus and wider community to continue to gather together virtually and strengthen their sense of community.
Flyers everywhere are encouraged to pray the Three O’Clock Prayer daily for their time zone. This is a prayer of spiritual unity and solidarity for the Marianist family, and it is prayed by Marianist communities throughout the world.
Another opportunity takes the place of weekday Masses in the chapel. At noon Dayton time, a campus minister leads a 15-minute prayer and reflection online. Anyone can participate through Zoom, an online conferencing service that streams audio and video. A list of participants appears on the screen, letting you know instantly that you’re in good company. Access to the prayer service is at go.udayton.edu/noonprayer.
Faith formation meetings have switched to Zoom, as have face-to-face meetings, such as counseling with priests. A list of services available through Campus Ministry is at udayton.edu/ministry.
There is no more business as usual for any of us, Sullivan said, and we don’t know how long it will last. It's a struggle being away from family and friends. We all feel disconnected to the life we had only a few short weeks ago. Our change in routine, in the way we usually connect with those around us, is a cause of anxiety, but faith has a role to play in helping us cope and heal. Faith shows us that within our sacrifice can be found the true meaning of God’s love.
“This feeling of being disconnected is a service we’re doing the community around us.”
“This feeling of being disconnected is a service we’re doing the community around us, and that’s the essence of common good,” she said.
“I believe that there is redemption in this for us humans.”
Updates to the campus response to the coronavirus are available at go.udayton.edu/coronavirus.