A Letter from the JFRC Director Regarding Fall 2020
June 23, 2020
Dear JFRC Community,
I want to share that Loyola University Chicago has made the very difficult decision to suspend all University study abroad programs for the Fall 2020 Semester, including the John Felice Rome Center, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. I share this news with a heavy heart. Although we will not be hosting students in the Fall, the Loyola Rome Center will of course continue to operate as a Loyola campus, including ongoing renovations and maintenance, planning for Spring and Summer 2021, and a host of exciting new initiatives as we prepare for our upcoming 60th founding anniversary in 2022.
As painful as the decision is, there is great consolation knowing that our JFRC students are at the heart of Loyola’s mission and that the decision process focused on the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. Please see the University’s official announcement from the Office of International Programs (OIP).
In March, multiple working groups were created within LUC to help steer the University through the COVID-19 crisis. One such working group focused specifically on the JFRC Fall 2020 semester. We met each week to gather information and explore options about what a Fall Semester in Rome might look like. Every effort was made to find alternative solutions that would render the Fall semester viable; however, due to considerations beyond our control, a final decision to suspend all LUC study abroad programs for Fall 2020 was made on June 22, 2020.
Both the US State Department and the CDC still have global travel advisories of the highest level, indicating that all nonessential travel should be avoided, and there is every indication that these advisories may remain high for the foreseeable future. Italy still has stringent restrictions in place regarding visitors from outside the EU/Schengen countries, including the US. Additionally, even now there are many unknowns regarding the spread of the virus and a possible second wave of infection in the Fall, when “flu season” begins. There are also stringent rules and protocols expected to remain in place in Italy, including a two-week mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving from outside the EU.
Due to these and other considerations, a growing number of US colleges and universities have already made the decision to suspend their study abroad programs for the Fall, including many of our Jesuit sister schools. Given all the unknowns, safety protocols, and travel limitations, Loyola University Chicago decided that the JFRC student experience would have been negatively affected and our students would not have had the “Loyola Rome Center study abroad experience” that we so passionately believe is vital for student success. The decision was made at this time because Loyola Chicago and the JFRC feel it is important for students and families to have enough time to make educational plans and housing arrangements for the Fall 2020 semester.
Although the news is deeply disappointing, the JFRC and its staff and faculty remain active, full of optimism and hope, and excited to prepare for our next group of students in Spring 2021. In the meantime, since students cannot come to Rome, we will be bringing Rome to them by offering several LUC summer online courses taught by JFRC professors – including Roman Catholicism, Church and Global Cultures, World of Classical Rome, and Writing Rome.
On behalf of everyone at the Rome Center, I want to share my heartfelt appreciation for so many notes I received from many dedicated alumni and friends of the JFRC, especially over these past very difficult months. At the beginning of the Spring semester, we could never have imagined the unprecedented events that would unfold over the course of the year. Amidst much sadness, we know that this is the right decision. It is important to remember that we all share in the same ongoing mission, namely, that the John Felice Rome Center is a global community of students and faculty, who work together to expand and use our gifts for the greater glory of God, the care of the planet, and the service of humankind. This mission grounds us in our work and allows us the grace to carry the weight of our responsibility.
Thank you all for your support, your dedication, and your love for what John Felice began as an “experiment” on the shores of the Tiber River almost six decades ago. The “house that John built” has indeed weathered some very rough few months. The prayers and well wishes of Rome Center supporters continue to sustain us during these difficult days. You have strengthened and nurtured us in our struggles, and continue to do so. As we begin a new fiscal year with much concern, we welcome any gifts of generosity that you can offer. Even if we cannot welcome students to campus this Fall, the mission of the JFRC continues because the vision of John Felice continues. I am confident that John’s vision will continue to inspire all that we do: our work, our lives, and especially our JFRC friendships, spread across a global community and forged through six decades of lifelong learning.
We continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers; please remember us, as well. I look forward to sharing further updates about the JFRC in the months ahead. In the meantime, have a happy and healthy summer!
Warmest regards and deepest gratitude from Rome,
Dr. Michael F. Andrews
Director, John Felice Rome Center