How does a theology professor devote her practice during a pandemic?
By: Melanie Roberts
Not all answers are found in a theology book or echoing through a zoom call. Some of it requires a greater reconfiguration of finding ways to reconnect with people that used to be accustomed to everyday interactions. For theology professor and Roman Catholic theologian Amanda Quantz, answers for her students come in a multitude of ways during the coronavirus pandemic and switching to all online classes on March 23rd. The shutdown of the University of Saint Mary left the college experimenting with the internet and video chat to find creative ways to teach students.
For some self-isolation is a new reality, for Dr. Quantz, she describes this new way of life that people are experiencing as monasticism. The theology professor has been teaching her students who are now disbursed around the country, the way of living a religious and isolated life from the rest of the world for decades. The answers we are looking for are not always embodied immediately. She is reconfiguring being a theologian in the world today to support her students during this challenging and pending time.
Saint Mary has felt like home since the first day Dr. Quantz arrived, and she wants her students to feel that same welcoming environment, like a neighborhood, wherever they may be. Before COVID-19, her office was her home in the neighborhood. The close-knit community has spread amongst the world and is virtually holding onto a stitch that keeps them together. For Dr. Quantz, God is the stitch that always keeps her connected to her work as theology and pastoral ministry professor. The San Francisco native herself fell in love with theology at nineteen years old and never looked back. The challenges she faced earning her bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from the University of San Diego is what helped her dive deeper into what was calling her and becoming a Child of God.
The impact of COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone around the world. The timeline below shows the effect of the virus that spread to the United States and then quickly changed the university learning environment and community. After the announcement of Saint Mary going online for the rest of the spring semester, the days following this problematic news, Dr. Quantz came to harmony with her feelings after reading the poem, Pandemic by Lynn Ungar. What stood out to her where the lines “center down” and “reach out with your heart.” She went on to discuss how these two lines have influenced her approach of tackling this challenge her students and community are facing. “At the heart of my approach, I am listening to the ear of my heart for what they need,” Dr. Quantz said on a phone interview.
Each day, Dr. Quantz is digging deeper to help her students find what it is they need during this time. Her pursuit to help her students is built with the same approach has monasticism. The monastic quest is one that involves ora et labora, Latin for “prayer and work.” The Doctor of Philosophy of Theology and Visual Arts from the University of Toronto realizes that she holds the space for her students, whether that’s in the classroom, her office, or virtually through zoom.
In the poem, Pandemic, the lines “know that our lives are in one another’s hands,” is similar to how junior Pastoral Minister and Theology major, William Bart feels about the virus and the significant challenges he has faced in the classroom. “Today’s environment isn’t the same as sitting with your peers and doing the work. However, we are still able to accomplish the things we need to by God’s enduring grace.”
During a time of uncertainty, the flooded feeling of the unknowns is enormous for some students. I am a senior facing the unknowns of the real world after graduation, but now the added weight of the world being shut down by a virus. The flexibility and awareness Dr. Quantz has for her students are real. I have witnessed it; I was a student in two of her theology classes and partaken in pastoral ministry activities. Now more than ever is the time to lean into the Lord. Weekly, I have been attending virtual centering prayers that Dr. Quantz has invited me to. These moments allow me to think on a deeper spiritual level and have helped me during this uncertain time.
As the future approaches, we ask ourselves, will the world recuperate?
Although the answer to what is happening to the world may not be embodied immediately, God is still listening. “Jesus is always up to something,” said Dr. Quantz.
Together, the one recuperation we all can make during this time is the connection with one another. “Touch only those to whom you commit your life,” from the Pandemic poem. Being quarantined, we can’t touch anyone. Instead, we are touching each other’s lives in different ways than ever before.
Melanie Roberts is a Senior at the University of Saint Mary studying Digital Communications.