As an educational community, like the rest of society, we were plunged into unchartered waters last March with the arrival of the coronavirus. Overnight, our normal timetables, routines and plans were disrupted and we had to pivot from traditional face to face pedagogy to remote teach, learning and assessment. I wish to congratulate all our students and staff for adapting so well, for engaging with online learning and remote examinations, and bring this unique academic year to a successful close.
Adapting to the challenges and changes of the last few months have taught us all new skills, we have discovered unknown talents and found a new resilience. These will equip and shape us as we face future challenges and difficulties in life and employment.
These times are also a ‘Kairos’ moment when we learn not only much more about ourselves, but we are reflecting and rethinking much of what were once prized as the goals of life: success, fame, wealth, power. These last few months have opened our eyes to the real heroes, those who gave their lives in order to serve others. We closed our economy and normal social life and yet strengthened our sense of community, citizenship and communion because a renewed sense of solidarity: every person counts, particularly the vulnerable and the weak.
Theology and philosophy are two powerful subjects to equip you in this ‘Kairos’ moment of rethinking and reshaping a post-pandemic world. My hope is your educational experience here in the Pontifical University will give you the ambition to be a leader of hope, building new relationships wherever you go based on inclusion, equality, tolerance and solidarity.
To all of our students who are progressing in their studies, we will begin lectures on 28 September and I look forward to seeing you back on campus next year. The reality is that around the world education is reinventing itself. The experience of university education is being transformed dramatically into a different model and it’s happening at a pace none of us could have predicted.
Of course nothing is comparable to the richness of being a part of a vibrant learning community. The formative value of daily interactions with fellow students and staff, the making of new lifelong friends and sharing your social life with them on campus, are key aspects of university life for most students.
At the same time as being on-campus, you will be at the coalface of this dramatic transformation which will see blended learning become a normal part of your education journey into the future. This transformation will be also an important dimension of your education experience preparing students for the dramatic changes and flexibility that will a part of the future employment landscape.
At the Pontifical University, at SPCM, we are planning and preparing to provide a blended learning experience on-campus that is engaging and creative building on what we have learned in the last six weeks of this term. As much teaching as is possible will be delivered on campus in partnership with Maynooth University and in line with health guidelines issues by the appropriate government agencies.
To our third year students, thank you for the enormous contribution you have made to the Pontifical University over the last three years. You are leaving university at a critical and challenging time, but in successfully completing your undergraduate studies, you have already shown that you can rise to unexpected and difficult challenges with resilience and hope. This will enable you to overcome other moments of hardship in life.
Keep alive the friendships, values and ideals that you have discovered through your university years at the Pontifical University, these will sustain and support you in the journey ahead. I look forward to meeting and congratulating you in person on graduation day on 7 November, respecting the appropriate health guidance at that time. So we will hold our ‘good-byes’ until we will meet on that joyful occasion.
I wish all our students a very enjoyable and safe summer break. I look forward to seeing you in the autumn.
With every good wish,
Rev. Prof Michael Mullaney