March 20, 2020

Area Catholic colleges announce changes due to coronavirus pandemic

By John Shaughnessy

While the uncertainty and the fear surrounding the coronavirus continues to leave its impact on everyday life, the three Catholic colleges in the archdiocese have continued to monitor the ever-changing landscape and make adjustments for its students and its communities.

On March 16, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St. Mary-of-the-Woods announced that all athletic events are canceled through April 3. The college also postponed its annual ring ceremony on March 21, to keep in line with Indiana’s new restrictions that gatherings in Indiana should be limited to 50 people or less.

Classes at the campus near Terre Haute were also canceled on March 16-17 so the college could transition to providing online-only instruction, said Dee Reed, the school’s executive director of strategic communications. The online-only instruction is initially scheduled to be in place from March 18 through April 3.

As of The Criterion going to press this week, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College planned to keep open its residential housing for students, while limiting access on residential floors to its students only. Reed also noted that the college’s dining hall plans to continue to be open for students, faculty and staff.

On March 16, Marian University in Indianapolis announced that it is “recommending that students leave campus and return to their primary residences, if possible. All courses will be taught online for the remainder of the academic year.”

In a note to students and their families, Marian’s president Daniel Elsener wrote that “students who have a need to remain in the residence halls will be accommodated.” He also stated that “there will be dining service available for students who must remain on campus.”

Elsener’s note also announced that Marian’s spring sports season has been cancelled.

“In closing, I can’t help but think of the foundational beliefs and traditions of Catholic higher education and how they apply to the situation in which we currently find ourselves,” Elsener noted.

“While scientists and medical professionals work diligently to mitigate the severity of the major changes this virus is making in our lives, our faith can give us perspective and hope. We have much to be thankful for in our lives and should not take those blessings, or each other, for granted.”

Seminarians at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, who takes classes at Marian, are also returning to their primary residences.

On March 17, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad announced that on-campus classes have been suspended for the rest of the spring semester, as part of Saint Meinrad’s effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Resident seminarians were told to return home to their dioceses and religious communities by March 20, according to a statement from Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, president-rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

“Students will be completing coursework by way of electronic delivery and email, according to the design of individual faculty members. All academic work will be completed,” Father Robinson noted in the statement.

He added, “I am also aware that, for some of our seminarians, it is impossible or impractical that they return to dioceses, religious communities or even to their homes. Seminarians who, for any reason, will not be able to leave campus or would prefer to remain at Saint Meinrad for a time will be able to do so. Meals and liturgical celebrations will be available for them, as will the support of the formation staff.”

In closing, he noted, “We here at Saint Meinrad remain united to our dioceses and religious communities in prayerful support during this difficult time. Please know of the prayers of the Saint Meinrad community for your local communities.

“If there is a positive outcome to this crisis, let us hope that it will be in the vast outpouring of charity and love on the part of many in our community. I have stressed with our seminarians that, as they leave Saint Meinrad, they go as ambassadors and servants of the Church. I know these men, and I know their quality.” †

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