Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Today, I reach out to you from an uncharacteristically quiet Omaha campus, as we begin the first day of full-scale online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This would have been our second week back from spring break, and, like many of you, I am still adjusting to our new realities.
I was honored last night to preside at the virtual “Candlelight” experience at St. John’s Church – joined in-person by Fr. Nicholas Santos, SJ, rector of our Jesuit community, and online by nearly 140 students, alumni, faculty, and staff on Zoom. As I shared with those gathered, looking out at the empty pews, it was so easy to envision the faces of students in their usual spots about the church. In a sad and remarkable way, your sense of presence remains on this campus – your energy, your inquiry, your prayers, and your dreams.
Indeed, I miss the buzz of activity on our campus mall, the sights of teaching and learning in our classrooms and laboratories, the sounds of laughter and camaraderie enlivening our residence halls, and the spirit and enthusiasm of our students, faculty, and staff filling the spaces and places that we hold dear.
In a recent video message to prospective students, I shared that our campus is amazing – our facilities are first rate and our grounds are beautiful and inviting. But really, it is the people who make Creighton so special and, in my estimate, unlike many other campuses around the nation.
These last few days, I have been particularly inspired by and grateful for the expressions of thanks our seniors have shared with their professors and deans – notes of appreciation for the education they have received and the professional friendships they have forged.
That fact that these seniors, during their own upheaval and disconnection, are reaching out with gratitude to their professors is impressive, and speaks volumes both to the character of our students and to the personal attention they receive from our outstanding faculty. It is a wonderful example of the Ignatian value of cura personalis – or care of the individual person – that is so infused in our programs and services, and daily lived out in the interactions of our faculty, staff, and students.
In these days ahead, as we settle into the new rhythm and realities of online courses and virtual interactions, it will be vitally important that we maintain our connectedness, our community – our unique sense of cura.
I am confident that we will. In this time of uncertainty and anxiousness, let us respond by being even more open and generous to both give and receive. If you are struggling, let others know. The Creighton EDGE will continue to offer academic success programming, Student Counseling Services can be a valuable resource, and our new Mind, Body, and Spirit website will connect you with virtual engagement opportunities.
In addition, let us be mindful to reach out to classmates, peers, colleagues, and others with an encouraging phone call, text, or email. These seemingly small acts can make a big difference. In the darkness of the coronavirus, we have an opportunity to stay Creighton and let our light shine.
Perhaps lost in the flurry of news reports and University decisions last week was the fact that spring arrived last Thursday. Soon our campus will be once again blossoming, reminding us of the hope and promise of a new day, a new dawn.
As I offered in my reflection at last night’s “Candlelight” experience, let us remain hopeful and perseverant, seeing what is truly important in our lives and knowing that God is working within each of us, in each of our lives, calling us forward. God needs your help in the world. God needs Creighton’s help in the world.
Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers daily. Together, we will get through this. We are a strong and caring community. A hopeful community. A community that is now virtual, but as interconnected and resilient as the bricks that line our campus mall.
Finally, I invite you to join me and Fr. Santos tomorrow at 9 p.m., as we preside at our Tuesday Night Mass via Zoom from St. John’s Church. I look forward to seeing you online.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD