In the midst of the novel coronavirus spreading across the country, many students might not be able to physically attend Mass or practice their faith in traditional manners for several reasons, such as mandated cancelations or health concerns in public spaces. Luckily for students, Campus Ministry at the University of Portland is determined to continue serving and supporting students, many of whom have left the city, state or even the country.
UP has taken several steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including suspending all public Masses until further notice. On March 16, the Archdiocese of Portland canceled all Masses until after Easter, which will impact all who celebrate the holiday by attending church.
Campus Ministry Director Fr. James Gallagher reminds students that, during this time, faith can be felt and shared in a special way.
“It’s gonna have a big effect on the normal Easter celebration,” Gallagher said. “For many Christians, church services are an important part of the celebration of that. Not having that is going to challenge us to be a lot more creative in how we’re going to be able to celebrate that.”
Campus Ministry is working to begin streaming UP mass services online, which Gallagher hopes to have running by this Sunday. Following that, daily masses will most likely also be streamed online for anyone to watch.
Gallagher urges the UP community to allow this time to be an opportunity for growth. He offers students advice when it comes to practicing faith remotely.
“Try to not watch it like you’re watching a movie or a tv show or a class lecture, but to really try to enter that space for celebration,” Gallagher said. “I’d also say for people to try and find rhythms within their homes for prayer. Whether they’re Catholic or Christian or any other religion, try and find rhythms for prayer in the midst of everything that’s going on.
Campus Ministry has been actively posting faith resources on their website, including a prayer request page and the opportunity to talk to campus ministers over the phone. Gallagher says students feeling lost or confused during these times is natural, and any student or community member should not hesitate to contact Campus Ministry.
“Times of transition are difficult no matter when they’re happening,” Gallagher said. “In times of transition, we have to be intentional about creating the new habits and patterns and routines. So, really try to be intentional about creating those times for prayer, for reflection, for meditation, and maybe even try new things in terms of worship. This is a time to really set aside a day as a time for really being attentive to family, to prayer, to resting; maybe go for a walk or something like that. It’s not the environment you’re normally learning in, so it’s important to have a lot of patience with those that you are spending the most time with, and to make the most out of it.”
Carlos Fuentes is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.