Administration to offer religious accommodations for Good Friday classes
By Finn McGillivray
When Dan O’Malley ‘22 first heard that there was going to be classes on Good Friday this year he couldn’t believe it. “I was like that can’t be true,” he said. “It just kept bothering me and I was like we have to make it not a normal day. At least something to acknowledge that it’s Good Friday.”
Jeffery Trumobower, vice president for academic affairs, explained in an email the school’s decision to hold classes on Good Friday. “We are only holding classes on Good Friday this year, for the first time in my 31 years here (probably for the first time ever), as a matter of public health, because we did not want to foster the conditions incentivizing students to leave and return to campus in the middle of the pandemic.”
O’Malley, who is an active member of the VITA peer ministry team on campus understood the rationale behind the decision. “I understand they didn’t want long weekends, I understand you think people will go home,” he said. “That all makes sense, but like I said, I just think the Catholic identity of our school takes that precedent.”
O’Malley decided to make his position known through a letter to administration as well as an online petition, which asked that classes be suspended during the hours of 12 to 3 p.m. “There’s a darkness over the land in the Gospels from those hours, and usually, any Good Friday Services will take place from 12 to 3 p.m. or at 3 p.m. during that day,” O’Malley said. “I was thinking that if we can’t have the day off and rest and fast like we’re called to do as Catholics, that that would at least be some kind of compromise that I think would acknowledge the needs of the faithful here, but also protect the safety of everybody from COVID and going home.”
Many students agreed, with the petition garnering 145 signatures by the time it was sent to members of the administration Friday, March 19. By Monday, March 22, the school had issued a response to Dan O’Malley.
Jeffery Trumbower explained that while canceling classes with such short notice would be disruptive to professors, the school will be making some accommodations. “Acknowledging the petition, however, we do recognize that as a Catholic institution we should support those students who wish to spend a portion of that day in prayerful reflection,” Trumbower said. “Therefore, we are drafting a message to all faculty who are teaching this semester requesting them to show consideration for students who ask to observe this solemn day from noon to 3 p.m.”
O’Malley said he was still a little disappointed by the school’s response, and he encourages students to spread the word about the accommodation, as the announcement will only be going out to faculty. “If you hear about it I highly encourage you to take it even if you’ve never stepped foot in the Chapel,” he said. “Maybe that’ll be the first day.”
Fr. Brian Cummings, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, said that while he is delighted with the petition and subsequent response, that he was consulted about the decision to schedule classes that day. “I supported the fact, given the pandemic, that we would have classes as usual on Good Friday in this rare instance,” he said. He also stressed that while the hours of 12 to 3 p.m. do have an important scriptural significance, the time in which people choose to do devotions is very much up to the individual. “it’s important to realize that the entire day is a holy day,” he said. “12 to 3 is a great traditional time to pray and to have devotions, but so is 9 in the morning, so is 9 at night.”
“For those who practice their faith on a regular basis and that this is an important part of their faith life, I would encourage them to do that,” Cummings said with regard to whether or not students should take advantage of the religious accommodation. However, he also noted that even in a normal year, not everyone is able to take the day off. “I think it depends on one’s devotion, and that’s a personal decision.”
“We can be safe and encourage people to stay on campus and celebrate our Christian faith together,” Cummings said. “And the emphasis I think should be coming together as a community at four o’clock as opposed to personal devotions which you really can do any three hours of the twenty-four-hour day.”
Edmundite campus ministry will be holding a Good Friday service at 4 p.m. April 2 in the chapel.