Catherine Mulroney is a communications officer at the University of St. Michael’s College. She is also a double alumna of St. Mike’s, holding a B.A. in English and Mediaeval Studies and a Master of Divinity degree. That equals many hours in Kelly Library and many, many overdue fines.
Raising Our Voices
It began—as many of the best things do—with someone volunteering an absent colleague for a little extra work.
Our new St. Mike’s blog, InsightOut, is the result of an after-hours conversation with Communications Director Laurie Morris and Theology prof Dr. Darren Dias on March 16, the last day we were all present on campus. Dr. Dias mentioned that his colleague, Dr. Michael Attridge, was self-quarantining at home after a research trip to Italy.
“It’s a good story,” Fr. Darren said. “You should ask Mike to write something for the website.”
Then the wheels began to turn. While not one of us could predict just how the comings weeks and months would play out, we knew we were facing an extraordinary moment in the university’s history. There would be value, we thought, in hearing each other’s experiences in, and thoughts about, living through such a momentous period.
Four months later, we now have a pattern established of InsightOut blog posts running on the St. Mike’s home page every Monday and Thursday. Each story, each opinion, is unique. And as the person privileged with soliciting and receiving submissions, I am humbled by the chance to be part of the process.
Graduate student Fr. Gustave Noel Ineza, O.P., for example, spoke about his childhood during the Rwandan genocide and urged us not forget the suffering of the broader world as we focus on local troubles.
Alumnus Dr. Christopher De Bono,Vice President of Mission, People and Ethics at Vancouver’s Providence Health Care, wrote about how moving he found his neighbours’ nightly ritual of banging pots and pans and making noise to celebrate the dedication of health care workers.
Interim Principal Dr. Mark McGowan, meanwhile, a professor of History and Celtic Studies, submitted a video explaining the typhus epidemic of 1847 in light of the current situation.
Professors have written about what their subject areas tell them about the pandemic, while students have talked what St. Mike’s means to them. And alumni members like Patricia Dal Ben, along with her colleague John Kostoff, a member of St. Michael’s Collegium, offered their professional wisdom on how families can keep a faith life alive when unable to get to Mass.
Some people have shyly offered to submit while others, when approached with a specific topic, agree with grudging good humour.
Coming posts will touch on the reality of working from home as a parent, how we are preparing for the coming academic year, and even how to get married during a pandemic. Pieces have ranged from moving to amusing.
Anyone who has worked through these past months will have experienced their colleagues in new ways. Zoom meetings reveal family photos or a glimpse of a partner or pet. A phone call might be interrupted by a delivery person at the door of what has become a home office.
For those of us working at St. Mike’s, the blog has taught us about family, we’ve heard admissions from those who miss their colleagues, we now know about our officemates’ hobbies, and we have gained insight into who we are as a community and what makes us unique. When we are at our best, it seems, we are closer to being family than colleagues.
But lest this sound like busy work or a grand vanity project, it’s anything but. While we’ve gained insight into our colleagues, the blog’s purpose is very much outreach. Having worked on planning various campus events, I know how people look to St. Mike’s to keep them engaged with the world and continuing on a path of lifelong learning. And if we can’t do that in person, some reflections and mini-online lectures are a sound alternative.
Parents of future students may come away from this blog reassured that not only are the people who’ll be working with their children skilled, capable professionals, they are also decent and caring people.
Future students can read the blog and find out some of the cool work happening on campus, and look forward to engaging in the kinds of discussions that make university a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And alumni can engage with InsightOut and know that their alma mater remains vibrant and in good hands.
One of the great ironies of this time of masks and social distancing is that through it we have been brought closer together. We now know more about each other and, more often than not, knowledge brings with it respect. We have learned to work together in new ways and have seen the value in teamwork.
As we approach the fall, this blog will begin to pivot toward other aspects of life at St. Mike’s, looking ahead to a time when we can put the pandemic behind us.
If you are connected with St. Mike’s and would like to participate in InsightOut, please send me an email to chat about a submission.
Having heard the stories of the St. Mike’s community, I am confident we will head into the fall ready to take on pretty much anything. As the hashtag says, we really are all in this together.
Read other InsightOut posts.