Bryant’s Campus Ministry team of chaplains continues to reach out virtually to provide assistance to students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to distance learning.
“Our open-door policy hasn’t changed,” says Rabbi Steven Jablow, Bryant’s Jewish chaplain. “You just can’t come through the same doorway.”
The “doorway” now is a phone call, email, internet connection, or Zoom meeting through which the chaplains can provide whatever spiritual – and personal - support University community members may need.
Through phone calls, email, Zoom meetings, and other digital connections, the chaplains provide spiritual and personal support.
While most students are at home with parents or family, and have the support of their own churches, synagogues, and mosques, Bryant’s Protestant chaplain Pastor Kevin White says all the chaplains know this is still a stressful time.
“We’re all dealing with the anxiety of not really knowing day-to-day what things are going to be like in what’s becoming the new normal,” he says. “We are grieving the losses of what this time of year was supposed to be,” says White, noting the end of the semester is normally a time of graduations, celebrations, and the beginning of jobs and internships.
Father Joseph Pescatello, one of the six priests who participate in Bryant’s Catholic Chaplaincy, notes that all the chaplains are available to the entire University community – students, faculty, and staff – for support during this difficult time.
Planning for fall semester continues
The chaplains are in regular contact with individual students and with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant student faith organizations through email and Zoom. They’re also reaching out in other ways. Father Pescatello, for instance, shares email messages of inspiration and hope with students.
Rabbi Jablow held a virtual Hillel hangout with students on Zoom last week. “One of the keys in these troubled times is to maintain the relationships that already exist, to keep them strong,” he says. Along with his colleagues, Rabbi Jablow seeks to keep students in contact with each other, “to put them in a position where – when they come back in – it’s like they were just here.”
Many of the world’s faith communities are especially impacted by the precautions we’re using to avoid spreading the virus this month, Bryant’s Imam Farid Ansari notes. Christians celebrate Easter and Jews observe Passover during April, which also brings the start of Ramadan for Muslims at sundown on April 23.
“Traditionally, we gather together for those 29 to 30 days and listen to the recitation of the Koran in congregation,” he said. “This year, however, we won’t be able to come together physically. Gathering remotely will be unprecedented."
However, Imam Ansari notes, “Humanity has a way of rising to meet challenges.”
While adjusting to meet those challenges, the chaplains also look forward to the fall semester. For example, Rabbi Jablow is meeting with student Hillel leadership to plan a welcoming event for the University’s incoming president, and what they’ll do for the fall Jewish holidays that begin at the end of the first week of classes.
Through it all, the Bryant community’s character of success shines, notes Rabbi Jablow, who also teaches at Bryant. “At the end of a class of 35 students on Zoom, two-thirds of the students don’t just say goodbye. They say: ’Thank you, Professor. See you next time.’”
Bryant’s faith leaders can be contacted at: