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A Message from the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA

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May 29, 2020

Dear Members of the Villanova Community,

Just breathe.

It sounds simple enough. As our Biology and Nursing faculty would easily remind us, it’s a basic human function—something most of us do instinctively and without labor. It’s also something we usually take for granted; a given you could say. However, as these past few months have shown us with COVID-19, and this past week with the senseless death of George Floyd, it’s also something precious, something to be protected and something to which every human being is entitled.

I can’t help but compare the two situations. With COVID-19, we witnessed what was occurring and swiftly and dramatically changed behaviors in order to save lives. As I think about George Floyd, and the numerous other black men and women who have been killed unjustly, I can’t help but wonder, why isn’t our reaction the same? When will we understand that injustice affects us all? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

No matter how empathic I want to be, I have come to understand that the experience of race in America has made it impossible for me to comprehend fully how incidents like the death of George Floyd affect our black students, faculty, staff and alumni. I do, however, want these Villanovans to know that I share in their anger, their frustration, their pain and their sorrow. I stand ready to support them however I can. No one should live a life stifled by racism. All human life is sacred. 

I call on all of us to look honestly at ourselves and see the times when our actions, interactions and reactions fall short of our best intentions. We need to examine where we have succeeded, where we have failed and where can we actively work together to improve—and commit to improving. To do this takes time, energy and commitment, but given what continues to happen around us, I believe it’s imperative that we try harder. We need to reach out beyond our comfort zone and engage in conversations on important subjects that matter.

Soon, we will emerge from self-isolation and when we do, I ask that our actions always be indicative of our Augustinian values of veritas, unitas and caritas. May our interactions be more thoughtful, more open, more understanding, more inclusive and more kind. May our reactions to issues, challenges and obstacles be more appropriate and less complacent. And let us pray that these become consistent, and as natural and innate as each breath we take.

With love and concern for all,

image of Father Peter's signature

Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA
President