30 September 2020Share
As we approach what we understand to be the last weeks of stage four lockdown in Melbourne, given the necessary and dramatic reduction in COVID-19 cases and associated deaths, it is timely to reflect on things other than the obvious limitations of confinement to a household, a five kilometre geography, nightly curfew, limited rights to exercise, too much alcohol, banana bread and sourdough.
I have considered myself fortunate in that I am still attending the office, albeit in a building on my own. This has been a starkly different experience within a campus that normally bustles with 12,000 people but is now operating with as few as 24 staff to maintain essential services. However, there is now a glimmer of light on the horizon. I wish to acknowledge our extraordinary staff who have continued to teach, provide student services, and fulfil many other tasks essential for the operation of this complex organisation, often from their lounge room and sometimes under the most unusual and fraught circumstances.
There are so many I could mention, but by way of example I wish to single out the work of Jeremy Ambrose, our Campus Pastoral Associate for staff from our Campus Ministry team. Jeremy was one of the last to reluctantly leave campus, routinely visiting isolated staff in our scattered buildings, usually with gifts of food to share, conversation and deep empathy. I have been approached by multiple people praising Jeremy’s actions and unfailing support. It has made a difference. And Jeremy is a very different sort of person.
In our long isolation, Jeremy has contacted staff by email, by phone, in person where possible, and through wonderfully creative endeavours. These include: Tuesday and Thursday morning prayer sessions for staff to come together in solidarity; an online newsletter ‘Campus Connections’; video clips on Workplace such as the ‘Locked down but not out’ series, a 15-20-minute show that includes introducing one of our campus staff, a musical interlude which often showcases a colleagues’ hidden musicality, and a reflective or humorous ending to lift the spirits. ‘Meet my books’ is another series where Jeremy invites a staff member to share a recent book they have enjoyed, and then our librarian, Karen Campbell, talks further about the selection. Early on, Jeremy sent out a video of our desolate campus, devoid of people, accompanied by the boozy horn of B.J. Thomas’ ‘Everybody’s out of town’. It was humorous and poignant – a combination that resonated with so many.
The people of St Patrick’s Campus have been extraordinary across the board, and Jeremy’s efforts are but one example of how committed and creative people have sought to sustain one another through challenging times and keep the spark of hope glimmering in our hearts.