I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is not how we intended to end the 2019-2020 year at the Hurst. The past few weeks have been especially hard for me as a senior who is so involved in Mercyhurst life. However, every day I have been committed to looking for the positives, to trying new hobbies, counting my blessings and, of course, washing my hands.
I have been reminding myself not to see this time as punishment or a hardship, but as a time to be more intentional with my days and to actually slow down as opposed to the 100-mile-an-hour life I normally would be living at school.
One of the things I have been most grateful for has been the commitment to continuing Campus Ministry events and other faith life support remotely. It is such a blessing to continue that community of faith and friends in such a time of need.
Interim Director of Campus Ministry, University Chaplain, Fr. Jim Piszker, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry, Jenell Patton and Campus Minister, Michelle Scully have been working hard to keep students’ spirits up both in community and in faith.
“I think it is very important that CM activities continue as it gives students a sense of continuity, a sense of community and a sense that they are not alone,” said Piszker. “Our activities are designed to feed the soul and in these challenging times that becomes much more important.”
Each weekly activity is simulating the same set-up as it would be in person using Microsoft Teams.
Tuesday Night Catholic Devotions met for the first time this past week to pray the rosary together. The leadership team is in the process of adjusting plans for the rest of the semester to see what is feasible to do remotely.
Wednesday Night Fellowship has been meeting for two weeks now, beginning with a community builder as an opportunity for people to interact with one another as they normally would in person. They have been encouraging people who may not have come in a while to join in as well. The last few weeks have been focused on handling the complex emotions such as discomfort and grief that come with this transition.
“Our time together has been a chance to process what people are thinking and feeling in a judgment free zone,” Patton said.
Catholic Devotions and Fellowship both saw lower numbers than usual in attendance, but Scully and Patton see any sort of gathering as a success.
“In Campus Ministry, we have the mindset that even if one person showed up for a program, it was worth it because that person needed to be there,” Patton said.
In addition to structured weekly events, Piszker, Patton and Scully all are available to hold individual sessions with students for conversation and faith guidance.
In being encouraged to socially distance ourselves, it can be easy to fall into loneliness or isolation. However, Patton states that staying strong in faith is one of the best ways to continue community, even when we are not physically close.
“Faith was never intended to be practiced on our own. We can miss this concept with our culture’s tendency towards being independent,” Patton said.” There is a harmony between community and solitude that we are encouraged to embrace as modeled by Jesus.”
There are resources posted on the Campus Ministry HUB page and Scully has been keeping the Campus Ministry Instagram page busy as well. She has been providing students resources for self–care, online retreats and ways to fully participate in masses or services.
“As you’re working on establishing new routines in so many aspects of your life, try to establish a reasonable prayer routine as well,” said Scully.
Patton suggests looking closer toward scripture to find comfort and strength, particularly the passages from the Gospels of Mark and John, to ask what they reveal about the characters of God and Jesus and how we can apply that to our own lives as well.
Patton also explained that students can learn a simple yet powerful Breath Prayer, meditating on the words “Be Still.”
“Learning to be in the presence of the God of your understanding is as easy as being mindful of your breath,” Patton said.
The leaders of Campus Ministry have also been experiencing that same feeling of uncertainly during this time of transition but are thankful for technology, spending time with friends and family, being outside, baking and the opportunity to continue these activities with their students.
“If you’re feeling lonely, reach out. Have the courage to send a text or send someone an email. Write someone an encouragement message,” said Patton. “Look beyond your circle of influence, who is in the margins of your life that you know would appreciate a note. Offering the gift of mercy and noticing a hurting person is practicing compassionate hospitality.”
“This won’t last forever,” said Scully. “I think it’s so difficult because there are so many unknowns and there’s not a firm date on when life stops being like this. Stay informed, but if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed step back from the news. Focus on the things that you do have control over.”
“In the sum total of your life, this is a small bend in the road. You still have your whole lives ahead of you and when this comes to an end, you will come away from it with some important insights about yourself that you may otherwise never have experienced,” Piszker said.
Contact Campus Ministry to be added to the Teams pages for any weekly activities and stay up to date with at-home recourses by following @hurstcampusmin on Instagram.