I pray we don’t go back to the old normal

It is wonderful as the Melbourne autumn progresses to see students coming back to campus, albeit in limited numbers. Like all our campuses, St. Patrick’s did not close in the midst of the COVID crisis but managed a transition to staff working from home and online tuition. Our doors were always open.

However, it was very quiet rattling around campus with a skeleton staff, our fantastic Library, Ministry, AskACU, Concierge, maintenance, security and cleaning teams. They and their colleagues working from home have done and continue to do an amazing job under difficult circumstances. I hope that when restrictions lift we can celebrate appropriately as a campus.

Equally disconcerting has been the availability of parking!

Our student numbers undertaking practical programs on campus will progressively increase and we will continue to offer on-line learning opportunities, combined with in-person class options.

I have noticed that with the introduction of Teams and Zoom that even the much grumbled walk across Victoria Parade and the associated time lost is being lamented. There are now fewer breaks between meetings, you do not even have to get out of your chair. I should now insert in a firm, quiet, rushed voice the disclaimer that will appear in a pitch at the end of this post urging you to of course exercise appropriate occupational health and safety practices and take a break, walk around, pretend you are crossing Victoria Parade. Safely.

This week the Melbourne Campus Co-ordinating Committee met, having cancelled our last meeting, to share information about what is happening in the Faculties, Schools and Directorates. Our State Facilities Director Mr Neil Hodgson also spoke on the impressive amount of maintenance work that his team has been able to complete in the absence of students and Mr John Kouris, State Development Director, shared similar leaps by WATPAC in the construction of the St. Teresa of Kolkata Building, notwithstanding a few wet days.

A lot has been achieved through the forced need for a COVID-related transition. We are not yet ‘post COVID’ and can only speculate as to the shape of things over the short term. I found a prayer, posted on the internet, by St Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Ohio that I liked and feel it reflects the sentiment of many at ACU:

I Pray We Don’t Go Back To The Old Normal...

I pray that the next time a friend grabs me and pulls me in for a hug, I actually take the time to appreciate the gift of their embrace.

I pray that when school resumes and people are dropping kids off, they take the time to thank the staff for the amazing gift that they give to our community.

I pray that the next time I’m sitting in a crowded restaurant I take the time to look around at the smiling faces, loud voices and thank God for the gift of community.

I pray that the next time I’m standing in church listening to the voices of praise and worship that I take a moment to thank God for the gift of congregation.

I pray that the next time I see a person or situation that needs prayer, I hope I pray as passionately and fervently as I have these past few weeks.

I pray that when I am at the grocery store that I take a moment to thank God that He provides us with the necessities of life and the amazing people who work so hard to keep us supplied.

I pray that I never again take for granted the ability to hop in the car and visit a friend, go to the mall, go to a gathering, etc.

So, truth is, I don’t want things to return to the way they once were. I pray that we take the lessons and challenges of the past few weeks and create a new normal. My goal is to pray more, love harder, and truly appreciate the daily abundance of blessings that were so easily overlooked just a mere few weeks ago.

I am looking forward to embracing together what comes next, hopefully post COVID.

Dr John Ballard
Associate Vice-Chancellor Victoria

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