2020 was a year marked by sickness, death, unrest, isolation, and economic difficulty — a year that has challenged the faith of many. 

And so, one might ask: What good could come out of a year like this one?

So, for our final issue of 2020, Angelus invited a lineup of writers — some regular contributors, others guests — to reflect on how they've seen God's providence at work in their own lives during this difficult year. Their reflections will be published on AngelusNews.com from Dec. 21-24. 

When Providence College announced that it would receive students on campus this fall, I was enthusiastic, even if apprehensive. 

I was delighted to be welcoming students back on campus for in-person instruction. I had seen the months our facilities team spent transforming the campus: adding sites for outdoor classes, installing plexiglass barriers, planning for quarantine protocols, and developing a rigorous testing program. 

I value learning as a community, and as a chaplain, knew that students would be looking to us (and to God) to help them make sense of 2020. 

On the whole, our students took the COVID-19 health and safety protocols seriously. We were able to have regular Masses and eucharistic adoration (including outdoors in our lovely Rosary Grotto), an in-person freshman retreat, and religious instruction (almost 20 students joined our RCIA program this fall). 

We also launched an app to help bolster a sense of community and make prayer resources readily available, and my fellow chaplains and I spent countless hours with students in one-on-one meetings and at meals on campus.

But the greatest moment of grace, without a doubt, was the relief we were able to provide during a two-week lockdown after a brief surge in COVID-19 cases among students. 

Armed with guitars and holy water, we used a Providence College-emblazoned golf cart to travel around campus and through the adjacent off-campus neighborhood to comfort students with a socially distanced song and house blessing. We rang bells and shouted hello, and students flocked to porches, decks, and windows to greet us.

A Providence College student's Snapchat captured the Dominican friars in action last spring. (Submitted photo)

Students expressed their delight at seeing the friars come to them in quarantine. As chaplains, we wanted them to know that we were there for them, and to turn their minds to God. We had real conversations, offering a word of encouragement and a joyful moment of prayer. 

Parents echoed their sons’ and daughters’ gratitude, emailing and calling the chaplaincy to thank us for reaching out. One student told me that she thought we were going to break Snapchat; everyone was sharing videos of friars singing and visiting in their “stories.”

The moment was powerful because it was a bright spot in a difficult moment this semester. We used light songs and a bit of comical levity (Dominican friars touring in a golf cart! “Quelle vue!”) to remind our students that although they felt isolated, God was near and at work in their midst. 

It’s a lesson that captures so much of 2020. We may feel alone at times, but we are not forgotten. The Lord will send his workers to the vineyard and continue to spread the extraordinary message of his love.

If you have a personal story or experience in which you have seen God’s provide at work in this difficult year, please email us at [email protected]. Submissions will be evaluated and published as part of an ongoing series on our website.