Dear Christendom College Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff:
Pax Christi! You are all in my prayers as we continue along our Holy Season of Lent.
Since I last communicated with you, circumstances in the United States concerning the COVID-19 virus have changed rapidly. We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Warren County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the country at large. Dramatic steps are being taken in many places to limit the spread of COVID-19 in all sectors. In some places, the governors of states have urged educational institutions to suspend in-person instruction and move to online formats. We have already done this for our Rome Semester, and are grateful that we did not delay in bringing our students home. There are confirmed cases in Virginia now, but no serious threat in or around the college at this time.
Given the rapid nature of developments concerning COVID-19, the college has decided to take the following steps to ensure the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, especially the most vulnerable members of our community:
- Extension of Spring Break: Spring Break will be extended through Friday, March 20. We ask that students make appropriate arrangements so as not to return to campus as originally planned. We know that this extension of Spring Break may cause some difficulties for you in making flight adjustments and other accommodations. Please be in touch with Amanda Graf (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Student Life if significant hardships result from this.
- Monitoring of Circumstances and Preparation for Online Instruction: During the extended Spring Break period, the college will continue to monitor changing circumstances.
- If the situation with the virus appears to stabilize and prudence allows us to resume on-campus classes with the short delay, we will do so on Monday, March 23.
- If, however, the situation in Virginia worsens significantly or government officials advise educational institutions to suspend in-person instruction, the college will move to an online format for class instruction. During this extended Spring Break period, professors will be preparing the tools to be able to offer online instruction to all students should we determine it is necessary. In the event of a move to online instruction, we hope this will be temporary and to be able to resume regular on-campus classes by Easter. Faculty will make instructional materials and readings available online, and students should not return to campus during this interim period to retrieve their books or other school materials.
- Time of Decision Concerning Suspension of In-Person Instruction: The college will communicate its decision about whether students will return to campus for classes following the extended break or move to online instruction no later than Wednesday, March 18.
- Current On Campus Precautions: On campus, we will continue to take precautions to ensure buildings and facilities are as clean as possible. This includes having our house keeping staff increase the number of times they disinfect “touch points” (e.g. doorknobs, faucet handles, etc.), and ensuring that the hand sanitizer stations in campus buildings are always resupplied. We also remain in contact with key health officials to ensure we are in the best possible position should students be asked to return in the near future.
I understand that our college experience is meant to be residential and that our relational formation and community life are essential to our program. No online instruction can adequately be a substitute for the classroom instruction and the shared life in the faith that make our college what it is. It is with a heavy heart that we consider extending the online instruction already in place for our Rome students to the student body at large, especially for our graduating seniors in their last semester. Yet we must still be prudent in this moment of difficulty for the world.
I ask that you join me in prayer for the situation worldwide. We must pray for calmness, charity, and care for the affected, as well as an end to the outbreak. The Holy Father’s prayer for these intentions can be found below. We will be praying this prayer together at the college for the foreseeable future and hope you will do so as well.
We find ourselves in a difficult moment, and I understand that it is not easy to keep anxiety and anger at bay. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, and He will not abandon us. Now is the time to be prudent and seek to live out our Christian call. Whatever the future holds, as Catholic Christians we should look for the opportunity to assist the most vulnerable in our communities at this time. Fitting for Lent, we should also redouble our prayers and consider all we decide to do through the lens of charity. As we prepare our hearts for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, let us remain where His Blessed Mother is, standing by Him at His darkest hour, bearing all things with steadfast fidelity and trust in the hope and new life that springs forth from the dead wood of the Cross.
Sincerely in the Heart of Christ,
Dr. Timothy O’Donnell
Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Protection
O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain,
with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.