“All hope is outrageous” declared the retreat master, and he went on to quote Jack Kerouac’s poem. I didn’t catch all of it; I was too busy with Isaiah versus Kerouac in my mind. “Outrageous” and “crazy” seemed appropriate to the times and my present situation. Here I was making my first formal retreat in forty years and it was coming to me from California via Zoom. Stranger yet, I was enjoying the whole experience!

The time frame was early July and the pattern for the rest of summer had  been laid out by a communication from Mount Saint Mary College to the effect that all faculty planning to teach in the Fall must take an e-class course in basic Online Learning. I had begun the last week in June and already knew I was in over my head. Syncronomus Hybrid Flex Modality? I couldn’t pronounce it, let alone make a plan and teach it. As Kerouac’s poem said, “round peg in a square hole” – that was me. Hope had stopped being a theological virtue and become the last resort of a drowning woman.

Salvation was at hand. First, from Father Joe, who assured us that “hope is more contagious than the pandemic” and “with hope, everything is possible.” Secondly, I had been given a tutor from the Office of Online Learning – Chuck Lynch – occasionally spelled by his partner Billy.  (Comic relief provided by Chuck’s beagle puppy begging for potato chips.) Morning by morning we untangled the mysteries of Tech Territory until I could proudly download the certificate declaring  me ”competent to teach online classes.” 

I wish I could write a “happily ever after” ending, but there remains the acid test of an actual class on August 25. And I suspect my hope, like my faith, will be tested again and again throughout the semester. So here’s to all of us the crazy ones, who undertake to teach in this year of the Pandemic.

At 3 pm on July 20, 1995 the Dominican Sisters of Hope were founded. On July 20, 2019, we began our 25th year since our founding. We declare a YEAR OF HOPE! In celebration, we will share a reflection on the 20th of every month. This is the thirteenth reflection in this series. Read all reflections here.

This reflection was written by

Dominican Sister of Hope Ceil Murray, OP

Dominican Sister of Hope Ceil Murray, OP earned her BMU in Piano from Manhattanville College, her MA in Musicology from Catholic University, her MA in Multidiscipline from Manhattanville College, her MA in Christian Education from Princeton Theological Seminary, and her PhD in American Religious Studies from Drew University. She has taught music, religion, writing, and research methods. 

In addition to her teaching career, Sister Ceil has served as the historian for the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh, which led her to author Other Waters, a history of the Newburgh community. She a tutor in the HEOP program at Mount Saint Mary College, and she worked briefly in the Greenhaven Prison Program at Marist College. Since 1998, Sister has taught religion at Mount Saint Mary College.