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Message Sent To:All Faculty, All Staff, All Students
Message From:Message from Dr. Rooney
Date Sent:Tuesday, April 7, 2020 11:59 AM CDT

Finding Meaning in Change

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As I sit to write this message sending best wishes on Passover and Easter, I am still unsettled by the image from a few weeks ago of Pope Francis delivering an urbi et orbi message to an empty square in front of St. Peter’s in Rome. There was a disconcerting poignancy to seeing this charismatic man who normally is in the midst of a crowd, now isolated in the immensity of the square speaking to us via livestream. The crucifix located behind him was simultaneously ominous and comforting. It was the same one that had been walked through the streets during a plague in the 16th century.

As a human race, we have been here before. But for most of us, it is unknown and frightening. Our world has been turned upside down, and the only thing we can be certain of is that the world after the pandemic will not be the same as before. In a way, we are facing circumstances similar to those faced by both the ancient Hebrews being led from slavery and Jesus’ disciples after his death and resurrection. Both groups endured suffering, uncertainty, confusion, and doubt.

When the Hebrews were led out of slavery into freedom, it was not without significant obstacles and suffering. Having this freedom was difficult, because they were now responsible for their own choices. Passover reminds people that God is always present and desires human freedom from slavery.

One of the more emotionally perplexing scenes from the Christian scriptures is when the risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and she does not initially recognize him. When she does understand who Jesus was, He says to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). After everything that they had just gone through, of course, she would want to hold on tightly to Jesus! His words, however, let her know that the world has changed, and they cannot go back to relating to one another as they did before. I sense that as we enter our Easter celebration this year, the same thing will be true for us.

We come from many faith traditions at Loyola, but I hope we can all find some meaning in these stories. Rather than thinking about the new world we have in front of us, post-pandemic, with foreboding, I urge Loyola students, faculty, staff, and alumni to embrace hope and express gratitude for the community we are being invited to become. Like our forebears in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures, suffering is part of the gift of life. Our task is to be transformed and not debilitated by whatever pain we experience. We are going to have to change some of the ways in which we live out our mission of education, but our mission will never change. It is to be Chicago’s and the world’s Jesuit university, a diverse community seeking God in all things and working to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith.

Strengthened by faith and hope, I sincerely wish everyone a Happy Passover and Happy Easter, and extend warm wishes to our Muslim brothers and sisters as they begin Ramadan later this month. While I acknowledge feeling unsettled by the uncertainty that will continue to fill our next days and weeks, I also feel gratitude for what you have all accomplished in the past month, and look forward with great anticipation to our future together.

With prayers,

Jo Ann Rooney