From our Chaplain, Father Branson Hipp

Hey guys,                                                                                                     +JMJ

I wanted to send an update to you all with what’s been going on here at the Catholic Center in light of the events surrounding COVID-19, how we’re responding to it, and how this affects you all.

I’m sure you all have already seen the memo from President Cabrera about moving to online instruction for the rest of the semester: (https://www.usg.edu/coronavirus/). The Archdiocese of Atlanta has also issued a memo (https://archatl.com/news/2020/03/coronavirus-update-march-16/) suspending all public masses for the next 3 weeks, until after the weekend of April 4-5. This includes suspending in-person faith formation, and any large gathering events are to be canceled or postponed. They have, however, said that people should still be able to come to the church for private prayer and there should still be opportunities for confessions. 

In light of these events and following the indications of the Archdiocese and the directives of health care professionals, all public masses and events will be suspended for the following 3 weeks. The Catholic Center will still be open for private prayer in the main chapel (please practice social distancing), the adoration chapel will be closed, and we ask that the Catholic Center only be used for prayer, and that you remain home if you are sick or showing symptoms. 

I will also be offering extended time for confessions, on weekdays (except Wednesdays) 4:30-6:30 pm, and on Sundays from 10-11:30 am and 2:30-4:30 pm in my office.  

We sent out a number of resources for you all on the Good Tidings, but I wanted to explain what they were and why they matter. So much of what we can love about college is the community life, so it can be particularly difficult to be spending extended time away from our community, especially in a time of upheaval and uncertainty. I know also that this year has been one of change and disappointments (change in chaplain, Peru mission trip being canceled, moving to distance learning, etc.). So much of what was thought to be stable, in society, in life here at the CC, etc. has been swept away. 

Fr. Luigi Giussani once said, “The circumstances through which God has us pass are essential and not secondary factors of our vocation, of the mission to which He calls us. If Christianity is the announcement of the fact that the Mystery became incarnate in a man, the circumstances in which one takes a position about this, in front of the whole world, is important to the very definition of witness”. If the circumstances through which we pass are essential to our vocation, to what God is calling us to, then we need to help each other to follow what’s happening, not in a reactive way, but to respond to what God is inviting us to. 

Part of my seminary studies included prison ministry, and I remember a small community of men that had told me how grateful they were for their time in prison, because it was the space in which they had met the Lord and were changed. They lived a life of prayer, study, and community within their system, and had in many ways transformed their confining circumstances from a prison to practically a monastery. 

We recognize that it’s not easy being home away from our communities, and if we are under quarantine that can be a confining experience. I’d like to propose that we live this time in an almost monastic way, of working, praying, and living community life where we are (this includes with our families, but also digitally with those that help us to grow). Here are a few practical suggestions:

  1. Have a structure/rhythm of the day. There can be less accountability and outside events that call us to task, so it can be easier to let our time slide away on unimportant things. Having a set time for our day can seem restricting, but it actually keeps us from falling into old habits. I’d like to highlight in particular praying some of the Liturgy of the Hours, which can give a rhythm to your day and remind you of Christ/the fact of the Church. I would suggest in particular praying Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night prayer. 
  2. Have a set time for Prayer. Spend time of Solitude with Him, pray for those in need/those in your community. Keep in mind those that are suffering in these days.
  3. Use this as a time to reconnect with your family. Especially with how busy school is, it can be easy to lose track of time and not be as intentional with our families. Be intentional about meals, time with them, asking about their lives, etc. 
  4. Keep up with your bible studies/community. Share honestly in your struggles and what you are living in these days.
  5. I’ll be recording my daily homilies, and we’ll be posting those to be made available to you all while there aren’t public masses available. 
  6. We are proposing the book Morality, Memory, and Desire by Msgr. Luigi Giussani to read in this time. I love this book and find it to be a great help to returning to the essential elements of Christianity. Especially in these times of uncertainty and upheaval, it’s of great value to return to the essential. I’d invite you to read the book and talk about it/share your thoughts with each other and us. 

This has been an unpredictable and trying time, but let’s continue to help each other to say yes to what’s being given to us. Know that I am offering my private mass for all of you daily, and remembering you there. If you have any questions or problems, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

In Christ,

Fr. Branson

                                                                                                                                   

In the meantime, if you have questions about the Catholic Center, Chris Martineck will be happy to help you at cmartineck@gtcatholic.org.  
Our Catholic Student Organization President, Donovan Kelley, will be happy to answer any questions about student activities and getting involved. You can reach him at president@gtcatholic.org.