College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered this message to the Christendom community on May 13.
Dear Christendom Faculty, Staff, Students, and Families,
Pax Christi! Know that my prayers are with each of you on this great feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Christendom College has long been entrusted to Our Lady of Fatima as our patroness. How often we have seen her powerful intercession through difficult moments in the life of the College! We continue to look to her during this time of hardship for so many in our country and world.
We find ourselves coming to the end of a very strange and, in many ways, difficult academic year. My heart goes out to each of you, especially our seniors and Rome students, for the challenges that were unexpectedly placed in your lives. At the same time, I am profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith and abandonment to God’s will that I have seen from you in so many ways. I have been truly inspired by the efforts of our tremendous faculty to deliver high quality instruction in less-than-ideal circumstances. The work of students to remain positive and engaged despite finding yourselves vying for internet bandwidth and quiet spaces to study has been a gift. I am comforted by the extraordinary work of our staff in supporting online instruction while doing all that can be done to maintain the financial health of the College. We have remained united in prayer and are strengthened by the awareness that this trial, in God’s providence, shall eventually pass.
One thing is certain – we want students to return to campus in the fall so that our vibrant Catholic educational apostolate and community can again thrive in the way it is intended to. With this desire in mind, and considering the Governor of Virginia’s plan to reopen the Commonwealth, I am very happy to provide you with the following information:
- Fall 2020 – Christendom College will resume its on-campus, residential operations in the Fall of 2020 according to our normal academic schedule. New students will come to campus on August 21, returning students will join us on August 22, and classes will begin on August 25. We are working hard even now to ensure that we are prepared to the extent possible to protect the College community’s health while preserving the nature of our educational experience. The College Administration has been exploring this topic at great length. To supplement its work, I will be creating a Task Force to help us further prepare for contingencies that may arise both before the semester begins and during the academic year. This Task Force will include administrators and faculty, and will seek expert medical opinions and the best approaches from other small educational institutions. While no segment of society can guarantee that there will be no cases of the Coronavirus in the days ahead, we are a small residential school, with the ability to put in place reasonable protocols, partner with healthcare professionals, sanitize prudently, and increase awareness of helpful practices to reduce the likelihood of infection and its spread. We are committed to this approach and will share more about what we are doing as the new semester approaches.
- Commencement Exercises – We are excited to announce that we will hold our Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2020 on Sunday, August 9. While seniors will have technically graduated by May 30 (after grades are recorded) and can access transcripts as needed at that time, we couldn’t imagine them losing the opportunity to come together as a class to celebrate their remarkable achievement. More information will be forthcoming to graduates and their families. Patrick Madrid is confirmed that he can attend as our Commencement speaker on this date. Given the current timeline for reopening Virginia, this date is safely beyond the Governor’s restrictions on gatherings of this kind. Returning students are scheduled to come to campus for early training and various camps at this time, so this new date also makes good sense given the College schedule. All Commencement events will be held on this single day. Unfortunately, circumstances require that we limit attendance to graduating students, parents, faculty, and staff.
- Enrollment and Financial Assistance – As of this email, our indicators for fall enrollment look very good. We expect to have a good size freshman class and solid overall enrollment. Because some toll from the COVID-19 response is still unclear, I appeal to any family that is seeing impacts from this situation that may affect your ability to attend Christendom in the fall to reach out to Mr. Tom McFadden, our Vice President of Enrollment, as soon as possible. We are working with donors to provide assistance to impacted families where possible. We are eager for every interested freshmen and returning student to join us in the fall and will do all we can to assist you if needed.
As we move forward together, it is important to remember that our Catholic liberal arts education is more than just the information that is imparted. We explore the deepest truths within a thriving Catholic community. We ponder the proper mode of human knowing through study, but also from example. We place the life-giving channels of our faith in the very center of our day, relying on the sacramental life of the Church to deepen our experience of God even as we deepen our academic understanding of His handiwork. One deep blessing from our time apart is a growing appreciation—for all of us—of how important the in-person, on-campus experience is for a school such as ours.
Our beloved founder, Dr. Warren Carroll, had a tremendous devotion to Mary in her apparition to the three small children in Portugal, even attributing his recovery from an early stroke to the presence of the Pilgrim Virgin statue in his hospital room. Mother Mary urged us to rely on the Rosary as a weapon against evil and as a refuge in which we can deepen our love of Jesus Christ. She made the powerful statement that He “wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. I promise salvation to those who embrace it; and these souls will be beloved of God like flowers arranged by me to adorn His throne.” The consecrations to the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart that we make regularly at the College reflect our trust in Our Lady’s promises. Let us turn to her now as we return to campus in the days ahead.
I look forward to seeing you very soon. Count on my continued prayers for you and your families as we move forward in trust and peace.
In Cordibus Jesu et Mariae,
Dr. Timothy O’Donnell