I feel the urge to embrace our community with a big hug today! Since actual hugs are not permitted these days, I am writing to extend a virtual hug of gratitude and empathy. I am so grateful for all that everyone is doing to sustain our culture of care and to help us remain open. I also am so grateful for the hard work of our faculty and staff who are ensuring our students continue to learn and develop whether in person or virtually.

It is easy to see, however, that everyone is feeling incredible amounts of stress right now. The hard work all of you are doing is stressful enough on its own, and it is magnified by the division and uncertainty facing our community and world today. I empathize with the anxiety, pain, anger and fear so many in our community feel right now, whether this is brought on by racial inequity, homophobia, xenophobia, financial insecurity, health challenges, additional family burdens or any of the many other burdens you might be carrying right now.

I extend a hug of love and friendship. Pope Francis reminds us in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, that we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. The world around us may be very divided, polarizing and sometimes hateful, but we are called to live differently. We were created for a fulfillment that can only be found in our love and care for one another. Only through our relationships as sisters and brothers to one another do we come to gradually know ourselves and become more fully human. These relationships should transcend all boundaries and unite us in friendship across differences of origin, nationality, race, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. For, as Pope Francis reminds us, “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity.”

Finally, I extend a hug of renewed hope. Pope Francis lights a path for renewed hope in his encyclical invitation: “Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”

Let us all RSVP “YES” to this powerful invitation.

Today, please accept my (socially distanced, no mask required) hug of gratitude and empathy, love and friendship, and renewed hope.

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