Masks. Social distancing. Quarantines. Restricted access. Virtual Events. 2020-2021 has been a year like no other. What have we learned?
Over the last few weeks, our administrators have surveyed 273 students, interviewed 27% of the senior class, held two consecutive town halls for parents, and met with almost every teacher to inquire about the experience of being at Priory during a pandemic. We now have all summer to reflect on what we have heard, but I want to share with you what resonates with me today.
Our faith has never been more important. So much of our lives has been uncomfortably out of our control. Whether we believe the adjustments for COVID were necessary or not, being told “no” was a difficult and unwelcome spiritual lesson. Many of us have regained an appreciation for the music, energy, and connection of all-school Friday Mass and the opportunity to recognize and strengthen the presence of Christ in our midst.
Community is essential. Sometimes it is easy to mistake the covering of material and the earning of grades as the essence of education. The Benedictine tradition understands true learning (outside of prayer) to be an encounter with Christ through a dynamic personal relationship with teachers, mentors, and coaches. For the teenage boy, Christ is also met powerfully through friendships and courtship; for the rest of us adults, we need communion with one another in order to grow. Priory will only be fully itself when we can all return to calling it home.
Traditions matter. Disruption may be an opportunity for innovation, but it is also an opportunity to deepen appreciation for what might be lost. Friday coat and tie as well as our traditional schedule are more popular now than ever (even among our oldest students), while everyone seems to have embraced virtual parent-teacher conferences as a welcome improvement! Priory will continue to bring back what matters most, while adopting innovations that enhance learning and community.
Technology is a challenge. Adjusting to increased use of laptops and cellphones has been hard for students and teachers alike. The school’s administrators will spend the summer preparing professional development opportunities for faculty, devising clearer boundaries for students, and implementing new technology to assist parents and teachers with promoting virtuous habits.
We have hope for the future. Behind every expressed frustration or disappointment is the belief that our lives could be better than they are. Christians have a name for it—the virtue of hope. Our community believes that we can have a bright future, and I believe that God will shepherd us to it. Over the summer, the school will have exciting news to share about capital improvements and strategic planning. Stay tuned!
As the final days of this academic year swiftly approach, I want to thank you all once more for your prayers and support of Saint Louis Priory School. May God reward you for your commitment to our mission. On behalf of my brother monks and I, know that you will be in our prayers this summer. God bless you all—and especially our graduating class of 2021!
Laus tibi Domine,
Father Cuthbert Elliott, O.S.B., '02