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Living School Adaption in Pandemic Times

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August 24th, 2022

On March 9, 2020, the Living School began an Intensive at a local retreat center. In the middle of the week, the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in New Mexico. On the last day of the Intensive, Fr. Richard taught students from his hermitage over Zoom. That very same day, CAC staff learned the CAC campus was closing; everyone would be working remotely until further notice.

This abrupt transition was an invitation to adapt. Since Richard’s Zoom lecture that March, the Living School has held seven online Intensives and six virtual Symposia. Each one has taught us about what fosters connection and encourages deeper integration of the content. We have also learned about working within the limits of the technology and of our staff capacity.

This year, the Intensives featured Richard teaching in person and through video and audio clips. Before listening to or watching the clips, students were led into a practice to ground their listening and attention in their bodies and hearts. Journal prompts were given for deeper reflection. Faculty and staff led “expansion” sessions, placing Richard’s teaching in context and expanding on its relevance. Also new were breakout sessions for students to introduce themselves in randomly selected small groups, encouraging connections that may not have happened otherwise. As always, there were practices and circle processing.

The online Intensives are a recent example of creatively learning to continue what Richard began. Next, we turn to preparing for our first in-person Symposium since 2019 and revising the Living School program to better serve student learning and transformation.

GIGI ROSS comes from Washington, DC, where she spent ten years working at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. Gigi is the Manager of the Living School.

This reflection appears in the Summer 2022 issue of the Mendicant, our quarterly donor newsletter.

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