Despite all the bad news he hears every time he turns on the TV, SJC Brooklyn junior Andrew Wenzler says his faith is helping him stay positive.
“It is important not to lose our faith, as it is what will help us during these times,” said Wenzler, a child study major. “It will help unite us as a College community, even when it is hard to see the good.”
With the ever-present threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and all of life’s changes that have come with it, it’s hard not to feel down. But like Wenzler, plenty of members of the St. Joseph’s College community are relying on their faith to stay optimistic.
“Faith is what enables us to overcome fear with trust — trust that we will come through these challenging times,” said Thomas Petriano, Ph.D., professor and chair of the College’s religious studies department. “Believing that God is with us as we navigate this challenging time can help us not give in to fear or despair.”
While virtually all houses of worship have temporarily cancelled congregate services in order to maintain physical distancing, SJC Brooklyn’s Campus Minister S. Marie Mackey, C.S.J., sees this as an opportunity to reflect on what those structures mean.
“I believe one thing for us to hold on to is the reality that God is here, with us, among us and calling us to be our best selves, despite the circumstances we and our world find ourselves in at this moment in history,” S. Marie said. “The one place that people of faith have always counted on be it parish church, synagogue or mosque has been shuttered. Despite this, God is here. We are all called to BE church to one another and to the most vulnerable.”
Offering Advice to the Community
Whether it’s reading your favorite psalm, listening to meaningful music or watching happy videos online, SJC Long Island Campus Minister Cristian Murphy encourages students to reflect on the joys of life to help stay positive.
“As we currently experience a world of cancelled events and grief, I wish to hold out the invitation for our students to find solace in the things that can never be cancelled,” Murphy said. “Phone calls with loved ones, the nature outside our walls, the joys of the little moments — these are where we can keep faith. Use this forced moment of pause as an opportunity to recalibrate the priorities within your heart.”
Dominique Brutus, a junior biology major at SJC Long Island, is pushing her classmates to try something new during this extra time at home.
“During crazy times like this, try to find the light in the darkness because, though it may be dim, the light is still there,” said Brutus, who is a member of the College’s Diversity Union, Biology Club, Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC), Project Sunshine, Students Taking Active Roles in Society (STARS), LEAD and the Sign Language Club.
“Try to learn a new language, call a family member you haven’t had the time to talk to in a while, have a wholehearted conversation with your family who’s at home with you, or maybe even try praying if you feel called to,” Brutus said. “You will accomplish something, and you will get something good out of this bad situation.”
Learning from this Crisis
“I do believe we will all come out of this stronger in our commitment to reconfigure our lives more closely to the Gospel,” S. Marie said. “To live lives worthy of our calling, in humility, dignity and patience, bearing with one another, lovingly. I hope as a people we wake up and realize that consumerism is not the path to a life of fulfillment; rather, it is a life of generosity, compassion, mercy, integrity and service that truly satisfies.”
Dr. Petriano noted all the wonderful goings-on that are bringing people together while staying apart: free online concerts and museum tours, creative ways for people to support each other, and people praying together, using such platforms as YouTube and Zoom.
“I really believe that in the crisis our world is facing, there is an opportunity,” Dr. Petriano said. “It is the opportunity to realize how interdependent we all are and how we all need each other, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
“Ironically, with churches closed, people may be praying more,” he continued. “For our students, this is the defining event of their generation. May we all keep the faith — even if it is a faith only in humanity itself. Working together, we can come through this together and be better for it.”
Staying Connected with SJC’s Campus Ministry
Students, faculty and staff from SJC Brooklyn are invited to reach out to S. Marie Mackey, who will offer opportunities for spiritual conversation via FaceTime or a phone call. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a 20-30 minute appointment.
Members of the SJC Long Island community in need of spiritual guidance can reach out to Murphy at email@example.com and on Google chat.
Additionally, Murphy is working with Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, DCSW, to celebrate live-stream Mass. The first will be held this Sunday. More events are also in the works, and will be available on the Campus Ministry Facebook page and YouTube channel.
“When all of the craziness settles down, it is important to remember that the pandemic is something that has affected every single person, whether they have contracted the virus or not,” said Wenzler, who serves as president of Students Taking a Role in Positively Empowering Society (STRIPES) and vice president of the Campus Ministry and Outreach Club. “We need to remember the importance of being there for one another and that we are not alone. Together, we can overcome anything.”