Patrick J. Reilly is president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. He also teaches at Aquinas Learning, a classical Catholic homeschool program led by his wife Rosario. They have five children.
Many faithful Catholic colleges are taking practical steps to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as sending students home and switching to online-only courses. But although students are now scattered across the country, many are finding ways to join together in prayer with college leaders, faculty and staff to seek God’s help for those in need.
At Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, President Christopher Ice — whose planned inauguration later this month has been postponed — has asked his students to “double down” on “prayers, fasting, and sacrifices.”
Students involved with the Mary and Mercy Center just across the street from the University are doing just that. The students are organizing a 54-day Divine Mercy Chaplet novena for an end to the virus and for the “souls of the dying, healing of the sick, the return of souls to the Church.” The novena begins on March 22 and ends on May 14, the feast of St. Corona, patron saint of pandemics.
“Prayer can never be our only response to a problem, but we should never leave it out, either,” says President Stephen Minnis of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, who asked the college community to join him in praying a novena to Our Lady of Monte Berico, who under this title ended a plague in the 1400s.
“I thought now would be a good time to take a breath and do what we as a community do best — call upon Our Lady’s intercession for a swift end to the spread of the virus and for her maternal protection for all,” he continued.
In addition, on Thursday he announced a “Memorare Army,” inviting each member of the Benedictine College community to say the “Memorare” prayer to Mary, Mother of God, 100 times over the next 10 days.
A beautiful Rosary procession was held at Thomas Aquinas College in Northfield, Massachusetts, on March 12, before students were sent home. Altar servers carried a statue of Our Lady across campus to pray for an end to the virus.
In Front Royal, Virginia, the president of Christendom College is asking for prayers to be entrusted to “Jesus Christ through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother.” Dr. Timothy O’Donnell is encouraging students during this “challenging time” to ask for “insight in how we can best act for His greater glory even now.”
“So often throughout history, Christian witness in times of trial moved others to embrace the faith,” Dr. O’Donnell told his community. “What a powerful message God can convey through us if we let Him, showing others our faith in a life after this earthly existence, and our hope in Our Savior who bears our suffering and sin to make possible our eternal happiness.”
The friars at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, are offering a private Mass every day for an end to the coronavirus. “I would like to invite everybody to pray that God does a mighty work,” says Father Dave Pivonka, president of the University, in a video message to students. “Heavenly father, confound and amaze the scientists by defeating this virus by your power and by your grace.”
Public participation in the Masses on many college campuses has come to a halt, such as at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, where Mass on campus is the longest standing tradition extending back to the University’s founding in 1959. A number of colleges, including Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, have begun livestreaming Mass on Facebook and other platforms.
Prayer is certainly needed during this challenging time. President John Garvey of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine, although he is no longer showing symptoms. Please keep this devoted leader of faithful Catholic education in your prayers.
Catholic college presidents are rightly making tough choices to ensure the safety of students and others in the country. Even more admirable, these faithful leaders are turning to Heaven, recognizing that God triumphs over any challenge.