Dear Members of Saint Mary Seminary community,
I am writing to share with you some specific details regarding our updated plans for the fall 2020 semester at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology. Our focus remains on creating a healthy formational community, centered in Jesus Christ, that allows for a prayerful place of priestly and ministerial formation. As St. John Paul II stated in his encyclical Pastores dabo vobis, the seminary community is “the essential formational matrix for those preparing for ordained ministry, which itself has radical communitarian form and can only be carried out as a collective work” (#17). Now that we’ve received input from students and their families, faculty, staff, and other members of the broader CPL community, we are able to provide you with a clearer report on key decisions even before the full Master Plan for Fall 2020 is in place.
In order to maintain the collective framework necessary for formation, a task force was established in mid-May to explore various models of what our seminary community might look like in the fall because the end-of-year assessment data indicated difficulties and concerns from both students and faculty, regarding their experience with the distance learning model in the Spring. Faculty unanimously felt that as a formational community, a face-to face, culture of encounter was the ideal. However, because of the pandemic, certain safety protocols would be necessary on campus. In June we gathered feedback from various groups regarding their ideas for learning in the fall term and their concerns about returning to campus – for class and for living. We conducted surveys with MA, DMin and adjunct faculty and held a focus group of seminarians.
After consultation especially with Jonathan Sague, Vice-President of Operations and Dr. Donald Spaner, Board Certified EMS Medical Director, both from University Hospitals, and referencing the Cleveland Clinic’s re-opening protocols found in their guide for educators “Return to School amid Covid 19,” which incorporates the guidelines set forth from the Center for Disease Control, and the Ohio Department of Health, a unanimous consensus was reached for an opening fall semester protocol.
The task force wanted to create an environment of inclusion that is consistent with the Guidelines the Diocese of Cleveland put in place for the re-opening of parishes. Since community must be balanced between the seminary institution itself (i.e. seminarians, commuter students, faculty, and staff) and the wider public life (i.e. parishes and field education), a model of inclusion is being adopted for the start of the year. The advantages of this model are the prioritization of interactions within the seminary and the wider public life of formation.
However, this will require continued social-distancing within the resident seminary community and among commuter students (i.e. at liturgies, classes, dining rooms, etc.), the wearing of masks, frequent hand-washing, daily temperature checks, and enhanced sanitization of communal spaces. Certain safety measures will be implemented to allow access to the library for the various groups on campus that use it, while upholding CDC guidelines for public spaces. We will have rooms set aside for quarantine if seminarians should become ill, and rapid-response testing will be available if needed. Also, certain annual events have been modified such as lectures with limited attendance and on-line access, while others will be cancelled or postponed pending the outcome of the pandemic. Both the Labor Day Recess and Fall break have been cancelled in order to allow for the community to establish a safe parameter for interaction by removing shorter recesses that have a potential for a greater spread of the virus.
The task force approved the following adaptations and recommendations on June 23, 2020:
As we finalize our plans with much prayer, conversation, and public health guidance, please know that we will be sharing updates with you in a timely manner. Please consult our webpage and look for pertinent emails as we gear up for the fall semester. We are all embracing ministry in a time of crisis. This is our new normal. It demands sacrifices on all our parts. All faculty, staff and students will need to have masks to wear when we are in public venues. We certainly want to engage each other but that will mean creating intentional barriers and not always being able to greet people in the manner we are accustomed. We will need to sanitize our personal spaces in the classrooms, library, or dining room in order to keep it germ free for the next occupant. For the seminarians and lay students, who will still engage in some form of pastoral ministry, a new normal means that we reshape how we interact and mingle with others in order to ensure their safety, maintain our good health, and keep safe the members of the seminary community as we continue to minister as public persons.
I truly believe these starting measures will allow us in a collective way to build a creative normal that is inclusive and enables us to embrace Christ’s life-giving spirit that is light and path in any season of challenge.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Saint Mary Seminary this Fall.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Reverend Mark A. Latcovich, PhD