The COVID-19 pandemic is still lingering across the country, and is especially affecting college campuses. Stags are happy to be back at Fairfield University; however, campus does look a bit different this year.
Social distancing guidelines have been implemented, and many events either aren’t happening this fall, are postponed or are completely different than in the past. One thing that COVID-19 can’t stop, though, are Sunday services. As a Jesuit university that has ethical and religious values, and provides opportunities for students to grow in their faith, Fairfield’s Sunday services are of the utmost importance to the community and a weekly tradition for many students.
Even though masses are happening every Sunday, they’ve changed quite a bit this semester. For starters, mass is now held in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts rather than the Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatious of Loyola.
Mass is offered several times throughout the day on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. A newly added 7:00 p.m. slot has also been in the rotation, but starting Nov. 1 it will no longer be offered, due to lack of attendance. Masses are being streamed via Zoom as well. To make up for not being able to be there in-person for the community aspect that Sunday mass brings, a lot of people are participating in mass virtually.
“I’m really impressed with the amount of people that have been using the Zoom platform to attend mass,” Fr. Michael Tunney S.J. said. “The fact that they are able to find something valuable in mass by being off campus and not there in-person is amazing, so God bless them.”
Although Sunday mass is still happening every week in-person, the limitations definitely make the experience different.
“One thing I’ll say is that those seats in the Quick Center look way too comfortable,” Tunney said, laughing. “I often wonder how long they are going to stay awake before they nod off.”
He mentioned that he’s been trying to bring more energy to the mass and engage the community that is there in-person, despite the experience being limited.
The social distancing guidelines and the fact that mass is contactless provides some difficulties because Sunday services can lose that community aspect with students having to sit six feet apart.
“Two of the biggest things that people come to mass for are community and great music, and it’s not the same. There are lots of barriers to the experience that are still difficult to overcome,” Tunney noted.
Despite the restrictions, Sunday mass is still a privilege, and an amazing opportunity for students each week.
D.J Ciampi, a Fairfield senior who is also one of the leaders of the eucharistic ministers, explained that it’s been a unique experience, while difficult to adjust to as well.
“It’s been nerve wracking to run,” Ciampi said. “Students are a bit discouraged by the lack of community because of the strict guidelines in place for the semester.”
Ciampi said that although the numbers for attendance have dropped significantly, he urges students to take advantage of the fact that masses are still in-person.
“Although everything is contactless, it gives us a chance to hone in on our individual relationship with God, especially in a time like now, when we’re always thinking,” Ciampi said.
Tunney’s message for those who may feel discouraged about the different mass setup this year is simple: Go to mass!
“The Quick Center can hold up to 150 students, even with limited capacity. We’re not even coming close to that number,” Tunney emphasized. “It’s no fun preaching to an empty auditorium. Get in the pews, and let the mass do the rest!”