Assistant to the President for Mission Integration Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos is organizing a series of reflections from students, faculty and staff during the coronavirus crisis. We thought alumni might like to read them, too. The letter below is dated Friday, March 20. We will share these as they are available. To keep up on the University’s response to the coronavirus, please visit udmercy.edu/life/health/health-advisory.php
As fewer and fewer of us are on campus and the news makes it increasingly necessary to accept that many of us will need to be physically apart and away from the university for some time, I wanted to be sure to continue to find ways to keep us connected. As Dean of the School of Architecture Dan Pitera reminded me yesterday, while we need to be physically distant, we do not need to be socially distant. With each of us learning various ways to communicate virtually, I find myself hopeful that this might actually be an opportunity for us to build and deepen our sense of community at the University.
As someone who has had to be physically away from family since I started my new role at Detroit Mercy, I have discovered that, with intentionality, the distance actually enables a deeper attentiveness to another’s presence, virtual though it is. I find myself more focused during the daily phone calls during my spouse’s drive home from work or the family FaceTime on the weekends. I feel a sense of joy, gratitude and longing when I see my son even when he is only in the background when I am speaking to his father. I am able to enjoy random videos my children send of ordinary activities or things they post on social media, things I other otherwise may not see.
When I imagine many of us having to radically change the context and the way we work, I am aware of the challenges yet I find myself imagining the creativity and community the change makes possible. The need to come together as teams to discuss how to successfully transition into this new mode of work is an opportunity to remember our shared mission and the important contribution each of us makes to this. I see the necessity of a different mode of approaching a task or a project as an opportunity to think outside the box. I find myself asking questions about what the most important tasks are in front of me and what other projects have now become more possible with the adjustment of my use of time. Whether it is because of meetings that have been cancelled or travel that can no longer take place, I am finding that I can now begin to hammer out projects that I had accepted would have to wait until the summer. More importantly, I am looking forward to the various teams I will be able to pull together, possibly more effectively, through teleconferencing and sharing virtual workspaces, teams I hope will become communities of colleagues supporting one another in our work during unusual times.
In the area of mission and ministry, there are already a number of resources that have been and are in the process of being created to ensure that our Detroit Mercy community feels supported and encouraged in the cultivation of our spiritual life. Among these are resources from the Detroit Jesuit Community and University Ministry. These may be helpful to you, especially during a time when we need to remember to focus on what is most important in our lives: family, friends and community.
I pray that you may find some respite this weekend. Blessings upon you and those you hold in your hearts.
Assistant to the President for Mission Integration
Let’s Talk is a semi-regular series of reflections on issues both big and small that are designed to get people talking. Let us know what you think in the comments below. If you want to contribute to this feature, write to Ron Bernas at email@example.com.