Residential ministers relocate but maintain connection with students

September 23, 2020

Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Georgetown University Photo by Brooke Dudek

Residential ministers (RMs) moved out of their dormitories and into alternative housing last week at the request of Georgetown University residential staff. 

The residential staff decided to move RMs in light of the anticipated high utility costs to continue housing them in largely empty buildings, according to an email sent to RMs in early September. For the remainder of the fall semester, most dormitories will be vacated and shut down, preventing unnecessary expenditures for heating, cooling, plumbing, electricity, and other utilities. According to the email sent to the RMs, RMs for the Village A and Village B residential communities will continue serving the current residents of their communities. 

The updated housing for other RMs includes off-campus housing and relocation to the Jesuit residences for Jesuit RMs. Some RMs are also moving to lower floors in their initially assigned dormitories.

Despite the inconvenience of moving residences several weeks into the semester, many RMs were supportive of the decision and grateful for the resources provided by the university during the moving period. “There’s a little bit of a flurry of panic in the disruption… but everyone I’ve talked to so far has had a little bit of fun exploring their new space,” Abigail Dean, one of the RMs for Harbin Hall, said. 

According to relocated RMs, many were provided with additional space and amenities in their new housing, assuaging the annoyance of an early-semester relocation. “All of us were into the rhythm of the semester, so it certainly was a significant adjustment for us,” Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J, a residential minister for Kennedy Hall, said. “But I think we’re also grateful to be able to work the way we do and do the things we can with students, and to know that other alternative housing was provided, so that made it, I think, a little bit easier on everyone.” 

Carnes relocated from Kennedy Hall to the Jesuit residences in Wolfington Hall, which he deemed “a very easy move.” For RMs who moved to the Georgetown neighborhood from on-campus dormitories, assistance was provided in the form of university-hired movers, according to Rev. David Pratt, a residential minister for Reynolds Hall. 

Many RMs have found silver linings in the relocation process. “I’m very aware of how displaced so many students have been, and so this has been a very slight way of sharing some of that displacement,” Carnes said. “It actually has given me an appreciation of what they’re going through and I think, actually, probably makes us even better ministers because we’re more attentive and can feel in our own hearts and our own bodies what that’s like to have to move.”

In reflecting on his own moving process, Pratt echoed the Jesuit sentiment of men and women for others. “Doing a small part to preserve jobs is what one expects from a Catholic and Jesuit institution,” he wrote in an email to the Voice. “The move makes us think of others!”

RMs are looking forward to continuing to connect with students from their new housing. Making spiritual and personal connections with students through a virtual medium is not an easy task, but RMs are ramping up their efforts to make an impact. While returning RMs are maintaining communication with the students who resided in their dorms last year, new RMs have been instructed to connect with first-year students who have never lived on campus. “We’re sending more emails than previously,” Dean explained. “Some of the RMs are also hosting prayer or Bible study sessions via Zoom, so there are definitely still ways to make that connection.”

Most of all, RMs are eagerly anticipating the return of students to campus in the near future so they can resume ministry in a personal, face-to-face setting. Still, they appreciate the relationships they’re maintaining with their students online. “The best part is getting to have these relationships and be with these people,” Dean said. “That’s not a burden, that’s a gift.”

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