Father Tom: The Experiences of a Chaplain During the Pandemic

In this incredibly difficult time, the Good Counsel community has shown a mammoth amount of strength, courage, and faith. The foundation of Good Counsel stems from our Catholic faith and identity as a Xaverian Brothers school. An essential member of our school’s community is Good Counsel’s chaplain: Father Tom Lavin.

In my interview with Fr. Tom, he emphasizes the deep and enduring need for faith and the liturgy’s significance, especially during these unpredictable times caused by the pandemic. 


Have you felt that your faith or the faith of students has been affected by the pandemic? How so?

“I do believe that my faith and the faith of the students have been affected by the pandemic. Our entire sense of expecting the next thing, whether it was school, art, theatre, sports, or celebrations, all came to a new change. None of us have been through this before. The hope of a quick solution or cure, even if just a few months, would be welcomed. School classes, as we had them, were abruptly changed to help keep us safe. How do we creatively react? I look at our faith as an important factor. God is with us. Even if we had not been praying or talking before with God, this was certainly a good time to start. How do we make sense of this? We are called not to blame others. Rather how do we protect and help others? Opportunities began to arise at how we do this. Classes and virtual learning began to take shape with the dedication of teachers, coaches, parents. The emotional welfare of so many has been affected. Class celebrations, plays, sports, concerts are all put on hold. Graduations and many milestone events, postponed or canceled.

We are wired to be people of hope. Our ability to control and expect things a certain way is expected. Our realization that we are in this together is so important. We need to care for and respect each other. Jesus sought to give this lesson so long ago. Scripture teaches us we do not know the time or place for so many things. Yet, God is with us. We are called to persevere and recognize God’s grace is at work. Are we open to see that? We are challenged to see what is really important. Respect for each other, especially in times of unrest, is so important. Each of us is called to see one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Theodore Ryken was not afraid of the unknown; he sought to place his trust and faith in God. The Xaverian Values are Gospel values we are asked to develop and put into practice. We certainly have the opportunity to do that during this time.”


How has your perception of liturgy and the Mass changed during our hybrid learning?

“The saddest part has been not being able to gather, especially for the celebration of the Mass. Creatively we have used the technology and talents of so many to try and reach out and share even virtually. Zoom has become a new way of life for us. This certainly brings us back to the early Church. We gather in small numbers; outside liturgy has been an important part of it. Small groups coming together allow us to be aware of how to watch out for one another. Wearing masks, washing hands, and being socially distant has brought challenges, that means creative solutions. Hybrid learning puts up barriers, but we work to bring about the essence of what our priorities are. We need to work at realizing how important each and every one of us are. We work at hearing, listening, and seeing each other—the respect to lift each other up and come together in safe ways.”


How would you recommend students improve and maintain their spiritual lives while stuck at home?

 “Students and all of us have much more time to reflect on what we see as important or priorities. We are created in love in the image of God. We have a God-given purpose. We have great potential. Our lifetime is spent realizing how do I develop my talents and abilities. How do I apply myself to be better and grow to the best of who I am called to be? The challenge is not giving into fear, isolation, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. Rather we look at how Jesus would take time away and rest awhile. This is not the time of doubt rather listening to the Holy Spirit, calling us forth. How many of the saints had such strong conversion processes in suffering and downtime. We are asked to open our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears. God is speaking, and we need to be attentive. This Advent season, we pray Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus. We are people of hope. We will allow the love and grace of God to help us through this. The light is coming stronger. Amen.”


As we continue to tread through these uncharted waters, it is vital that we hold on to our faith and our Good Counsel community, as emphasized by Father Tom. We will continue to persevere, emerging from these tough times stronger than ever.