Unexpected Fasting (and COVID-19)

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On March 12, 2020 Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts elected to extend its spring break by one week and move its academic programs and as many of its co-curricular activities as possible online temporarily.  This decision was made in order to prevent the possible intrusion of COVID-19 into the larger collegiate community—particularly among those for whom the virus could be fatal—and to help slow the spread of the virus within the state and the nation.

This decision was not made out of fear but as an act of charity for those who are vulnerable.  This was an opportunity for Magdalen College to lead as an institution.

The decision to make this change was based on the views expressed by parents and students and consultation with experts on the matter, especially those with expertise on COVID-19 and residential higher education.  Because Magdalen College draws students from across the nation and the world, this decision was also based on a realistic assessment of the particular risks associated with particular regions and the broader dynamics emerging nationally and internationally.  And it was informed by a rapidly developing awareness that it is virtually impossible to provide an adequate quarantine of this particular illness on almost any college campus with traditional residences.

Even prior to this decision, the college’s leadership had begun planning how to maintain as much continuity as possible across the distances that would separate the members of the collegiate community with respect to learning, spiritual growth, and the community life that makes Magdalen College such a unique institution.  This included virtually non-stop reading and conversation about the situation (this is Magdalen, after all), extensive consultation with outside experts, and the acquisition of technology to prepare for what might be coming.

Once the decision was made, the Academic Dean, the Dean of Students, the Chief Operating Office, the chaplain, two members of the faculty with expertise in online education, and the other members of the collegiate faculty, administration, and staff began developing and implementing the plans required to maintain continuity.

During the week of March 16, the college will be holding training sessions for faculty, staff, and students for the Webex online platform.  Members of the faculty who are new to online teaching will receive administrative support as will students in order to make this transition as smooth as possible.

But the college is also examining ways to maintain and develop the spiritual and formational opportunities that were already in place.  A daily collegiate rosary, the scheduled consecration, and social opportunities for classes to gather online are being planned.

In making the announcement on March 12, president George Harne observed:

“When Lent began just a couple of weeks ago, none of us anticipated that we would be asked to fast from our time together in the classroom, our liturgies, our friendships, and the thousand things that make Magdalen so remarkable as a residential college.  I have no doubt that we will all be together again very soon.  Let us pray for one another, our nation, the Church, and the world … During this time, we will do our best to be faithful to our mission, seeking to build up our collegiate community across these greater distances, and continuing to seek wisdom together, in spite of the obstacles thrown up in our way.”

Please join us in our prayers–see below–for all those who are suffering at this time and let us all serve with courage and charity.

For more information about the college’s activities during this time, please contact Ginger Iverson at [email protected]

O Mary,
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.



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