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Letters to Loyola: A Prayer for Strength

December 16, 2021

Dear Loyola,

I would normally be writing to you about how Advent is a time for peaceful contemplation as we prepare for the coming of our Lord, but this year does not make that easy. After a remarkably functional several months, we end the semester as we began it – with yet another variant and yet another COVID spike. We tighten our public health discipline, again, all in the thick of exams and papers, studying and grading. Our residence hall staff, RAs and public health staff are exhausted.

We are determined to keep learning to navigate risk and to provide students the education and community they deserve, but the timing of this outbreak – however mild the symptoms – has been terrible as we try to avoid havoc on the fairness of grades, and as students prepare to travel home and avoid getting stuck in quarantine. Faculty moved as many exams to virtual as they could while avoiding major academic disruption and damage in certain fields. For students in the residence halls, we’ve been asking you with increasing urgency to go as soon as you can, but we also know that for many of you that is a logistical or financial impossibility, and to force you would create enormous hardship. It’s just a terrible set of choices.

I don’t really have (email appropriate) words for it.

My hope is that omicron is a weaker disease, and that the experience of our students with very mild symptoms proves universal. My prayer is that a much weaker variant of the virus crowds out the more vicious ones. (That’s what finally ended the 1918 flu pandemic.) That we can vaccinate the world and keep discovering better treatments.

Because, Lord, we are all so very tired.

More than two thousand years ago, the original Christmas was an experience of uncertainty and displacement, of a family desperately looking for a room at the inn (as so many of us experienced firsthand during Hurricane Ida this year). This Christmas will be yet another year when people across the globe will be separated from loved ones, financially struggling, adjusting expectations, and making the best of it.

And so we try, as Mary did, to put aside our anxiety and put our faith in God and in each other. We pray for the strength to play the long game. And we remember to be grateful for those precious moments of grace that appear during a crisis.

Thank you for your strength,

Tania Tetlow