Seven weeks ago today we celebrated our last public Mass at the Chaplaincy. Three days later, with at that time three chaplains and seven students, we entered into lockdown. It was the beginning of tenth week of Hilary. How life was changing!

Alvea has become a whizz at managing our online Masses. And it was all thanks to Neil, our manager, that the tech was in place when lockdown started.

Our Holy Week ceremonies were livestreamed from the Newman Room and included a very safely constructed Easter Vigil Fire!

The resident students and other students around the world pre-recorded readings, sung-psalms and hymns, so there was a wonderful sense of the community gathering for, and contributing to, the celebration of the heart of our Catholic Faith.

We have established a rhythm of life during these weeks which we hope has helped everyone get on with their studies and to manage the different pressures that I am sure we have all been experiencing.

As well as meals together three times a week, we meet for morning coffee every day, have a twice-a-week Pilates session, led by Rasa – a huge help – and hold a prayerful review of the week on Sunday lunchtimes; there’s the possibility too, for those who wish, to attend Night Prayer and Adoration on various evenings in the week.

Much of the Chaplains’ time and attention goes into preparing and celebrating the daily 6pm Mon-Sat Masses and the Sunday 11am and, now that term has started, 8pm Masses. There has been no shortage of people being in contact by email or by Zoom/Skype.

We’ve not gone unaffected by the difficulties of these times – there have been some distressing instances of witnessing the suffering of those most on the peripheries of society and we’ve been touched too by news of those who have been bereaved. We’ve all had a lot of time online offering support and being supported by friends and family.

We have also been greatly blessed by opportunities for community celebrations that have left us all feeling extremely grateful for this time together. May Morning will stay in the memory!

As Chaplains and as a chaplaincy community we have been doing our best to stay in touch with Chaplaincy members and it has been wonderful to get news of how people are. And now that term has restarted it has been great to see familiar faces appearing on screens for post 8am Mass breakfasts, for Blue Room Zoom time drop-ins, for our Tuesday evenings at the Chaplaincy. We’ve also been delighted to ‘attend’ the Newman Society’s first two talks and all congratulations to Liam and the committee for managing that so well.

We are awaiting the Prime Minister’s Sunday announcement and wondering what the implications will be for us of any relaxing of the Lockdown. Please do say a prayer that we can embrace the changes generously and that we can continue to seek to be of support to you all, the wider Chaplaincy community.