By: Rev. Donald F. Reilly, O.S.A., D.Min.
It has been an unprecedented two months at Malvern Prep. Never would I have imagined that I would be Head of School during a pandemic - on a campus without students, faculty, and staff. It is quiet on campus, devoid of the normal chatter, laughter, and camaraderie that typically fills the space. But with that said, our community is still thriving - it just looks very different.
To be frank, I was unsure how our community was going to respond to a pandemic; having to close campus down and move to a virtual learning environment. At the time - back in March - we were in unchartered waters, facing something we never had to address before with the exception of a virtual snow day or two. We happily discovered that as a school, we had the right tools and training in place to be able to continue the academic pace to which our young friars have grown accustomed. The faculty and staff were "all in". The degree of cooperation, enthusiasm, care, and concern for the students was exhilarating. This is still our reality.
We made, and continue to make, adjustments along the way so that our students and faculty and staff can function at a high level. In addition to the world being a very stressful place right now, taking care of families while working at home magnifies that stress. We implemented new and different ways to come together as a community - celebrating weekly Mass via live-stream, increased video messages, daily virtual meetings with administrators and faculty, and even a very successful, first-time virtual auction to support our school.
On a personal note, as an Augustinian, following the example of St. Augustine, I am called to live in community, calling nothing my own, seeing God in my brothers, praying together, and holding all things in common. I am also called to create community, to help bring about a spirit of cooperation and unity in every aspect of my life, as all Friars are called to do. Community, for me, celebrates the giftedness of others, respects differences, acknowledges the wisdom of the group, accents the "we" and not the "me" and works to assure a better outcome in any worthwhile endeavor.
What I experience at Malvern at this time is a sharing in the Augustinian priority of community. From the collaboration in designing programs and schedules for teaching and professional development to co-curricular activities sewn seamlessly into the academic day to the care, concern, and support of families whose loved ones are ill with COVID-19, to expressions of appreciation for all that each of us is doing for and with each other is clearly the heartbeat of Malvern. We are living our mission!
What I have learned these past few months is the incredible resilience and fortitude of Malvern at a time when fragility and uncertainty threaten our common life and shared project of teaching and learning. "Malvern Strong" is an apt phrase that captures who we are and how we want to be as a community. So many known and unknown deeds of kindness are happening daily. Meal preparations for families in distress, food drives for local food banks, prayers, and more prayers for those in our midst who are hurting. A crisis is an unwelcome assessment of weakness and strength. I have learned that the Malvern community, rooted in our core values of Truth, Unity, and Love, passed this test with flying colors.