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The Aquilian

COVID-19 restrictions limit Fr. Gap’s ability to connect with students

Fr.+Gap+LoBiondo%2C+SJ+is+used+to+being+a+familiar+face+around+campus%2C+but+since+the+pandemic%2C+hes+reduced+his+interaction+with+students.+He+continues+to+help+with+the+Kairos+retreats%2C+though.+Here%2C+Fr.+Gap+celebrates+a+Mass+on+from+the+January+2019+Kairos.+%28Photo+by+Mrs.+Teresa+Jackson%29+
Fr. Gap LoBiondo, SJ is used to being a familiar face around campus, but since the pandemic, he’s reduced his interaction with students. He continues to help with the Kairos retreats, though. Here, Fr. Gap celebrates a Mass on from the January 2019 Kairos. (Photo by Mrs. Teresa Jackson)

Fr. Gap LoBiondo, SJ was no stranger to adjustment in the midst of the pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, he spent most of the lockdown on campus along with 14 other Gonzaga Jesuits residents, who all live in the upper levels of Dooley Hall. 

“In the community, there were big differences,” Fr. Gap said. “For example, interaction with students is minimal.” 

As a result of the pandemic, student life drastically changed in the beginning, as all students exclusively attended virtual classes. Conversing with students in the halls, a quality that makes Gonzaga a close-knit community, remained unavailable. 

Although the hybrid schedule offers some interaction between Fr. Gap and the students, he says, “It’s not as easy to be relaxed and chit-chatting with students as it was before lockdown. Generally, my interaction with students is all virtual, so there’s a lot of zooming.” 

Trying to maintain contact with the students during an unpredictable pandemic is difficult enough, but Gonzaga prevailed while also conserving essential traditions. On Ash Wednesday, prayer services were held in the Carmody Center, the Sheehy Theatre, and the St. Aloysius Chruch. In the Carmody Center, Fr. Gap was able to give ashes to around 50 students. Instead of the ashes being drawn on foreheads, the ashes were dropped on the top of their heads to reduce contact. He, too, went on this year’s socially distanced Kairos, which was held in St. Aloysius Church.

Fr. Gap distributed ashes on Ash Wednesday in the Carmody Center. (Photo taken from https://www.gonzaga.org/news-detail?pk=1400423)

“All the talks and activities were the same; the only difference was that everyone was social distancing in the pews,” Fr. Gap said. 

Fr. Gap then explained the initial changes that COVID-19 brought onto among the Jesuits. 

“For example, meals. We don’t eat in the dining room anymore because we have to always keep six feet apart. Now, most eat in the living room, and in separate distance,” he said. 

Though all of the 15 Jesuits living on campus began receiving their vaccines, the COVID safety precautions are still in place. Fr. Gap just received his second dose on March 9, which he was excited for. 

“Of course, I miss the social life, I miss the students being able to come down into my office,” he said. “It’s very isolating, but [Gonzaga is] doing [its] best.” 

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    Derrell J. BouknightMar 16, 2021 at 6:17 am

    One of the most hidden features about what makes Gonzaga special is the interactions that take place on campus. In the hallways, on the fields, in the cafeteria, wherever. And that aspect is often overlooked. You captured it well and I am glad you touched on it while also being able to tie in one of the school’s most beloved members.

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