Impossible Solutions to Insoluble Problems

SLUH Embraces Jesuit Ingenuity During Pandemic

By Fr. Ian Gibbons, SJ, Principal

Ignatius of Loyola has been called the “Patron Saint of Plan B,” as very little went according to design in his life. Plagues, wars and political turmoil tore asunder each major commitment St. Ignatius made. What came next were brilliant Plan B’s that became far more impactful than the original proposals.

We of course had our own Plan B this past school year due to the pandemic. No teacher or student at SLUH would claim that we were better off with the lock-down, but we clearly responded in historic and impactful manners. Some of the changes we made will become permanent improvements, and others will serve to make us appreciate our 202-year-old mission all the more. All of these changes created solutions to a global crisis. Here are some of the innovations we undertook:

  • Online classes with clear daily content and deliverable projects, creating structure and forward progress in our rigorous curriculum;
  • Rapid incorporation of online gathering platforms like Google Meet and Zoom, providing social and interactive opportunities;
  • Strong safety net programs for students and families struggling with emotional, financial, health and mental wellness challenges;
  • 94-99% daily attendance in a time when online learning was floundering nationally;
  • Creative solutions to social and programmatic opportunities lost due to quarantine; and
  • Powerful new educational resources like Educreations Whiteboard, Quizlet, Kahoot and Udemy that create educational experiences that unlock deeper learning potential. 

Here is a quick example of such Ignatian ingenuity. When graduation was postponed to late July, we needed to do something to help celebrate our seniors and transition them onward. We therefore used our own SLUH narrative to create a bookend to the legendary Running of the Bills program that shepherded the Class of 2020 into SLUH through the stadium gates four years ago. To honor our seniors, we created the Driving of the Bills, in which the graduates traversed a route through the SLUH campus, ending at the very stadium gates they originally entered four years previously. Parents rode along and blue paint was optional. This was a deeply powerful program that will forever mark the Class of 2020’s experience.

So much of what makes SLUH unique are the small moments and deep relationships. During the lock-down, we sought to retain these singular elements through online retreat communities, liturgies, co-curricular meetings, student forums and many other opportunities. Nothing can substitute for physical presence, but SLUH has proven adept at recreating the pivotal experiences of formation on Oakland Avenue.

As we approach uncertainty in the new school year, Jesuit ingenuity will continue live in the planning, conversations and formation work. Impossible solutions to insoluble problems are a part of Jesuit faith. Such solutions have existed at SLUH for two centuries and will continue to do so in the future.

Thanks to our families, alumni and benefactors for their support for all of our programs at SLUH, especially during these unprecedented times. Please know of our prayers for you and your loved ones.

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