Solidarity is one of the central tenets of Catholic social teaching, a key thread in social justice. Solidarity means we stand with our neighbors as brothers and sisters working together in times of need. “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.” (USCCB on the meaning of Solidarity)
In the past week, faced with an unprecedented national and global health crisis, Trinity heard the call to solidarity and responded immediately to stand with the remarkable team at Children’s National Hospital to provide a vital service for children’s health during the Covid-19 crisis. In the photo above, with all of us maintaining proper “social distance,” I am standing with Mayor Muriel Bowser (white vest), Children’s National CEO Dr. Kurt Newman (white had) and the incredibly talented and dedicated team of doctors and nurses from Children’s National who have taken over Trinity’s south parking lot to establish a field unit for drive-through coronavirus testing for children referred by their pediatricians. (See this report that aired on Fox5 news. See also this report on NBCWashington.)
We’ve been working hard to take care of everyone at Trinity in this moment of global crisis, but we are also mindful of the expectation of our mission to act in social justice to care for others in need. So, when I got a call late last week from our friends at Children’s National Hospital asking if Trinity could step up in the current public health emergency in a new and vital way, and I readily agreed. Like all other schools, colleges and universities in DC and many throughout the nation, we moved to alternative instructional delivery a week ago in response to the coronavirus crisis, and while some students remain in residence, most students, faculty and staff are teaching, learning and working remotely. So, the campus is empty right now — and our parking lots are wide open.
Chidren’s National Chief Nursing Officer Linda Talley is also a member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees, and a wonderful partner for our Nursing Program. When she called me to explain that Children’s was looking for a space to conduct drive-through Covid-19 testing for children, I immediately knew we had the perfect spot on the south side of the campus. The site is very remote from our buildings and no Trinity personnel are directly involved; the site is very safe. Not open to the general public, this field station is only available to children who have been referred by their pediatricians.
Our friends at Children’s are so grateful to Trinity for being a committed partner in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We are also sharing some of our parking spaces for their staff, and we have donated some of our unused nursing PPE supplies including N95 masks, goggles, gowns and a ventilator (photo below).
We experience our mission at Trinity with the extra dimension of our Catholic commitment to social justice. A few years ago, Pope Francis gave an interview in which he said, famously, “I see the Church as a field hospital…” bringing care and healing for the wounds of the community. It never occurred to me that one day there would be so grave a public health crisis that Trinity would realize that message literally, but we do so today with certainty that through living our mission faithfully, we can find the grace and strength we need to rise through this period of so much sickness and sorrow.
(L. to R.: Director of DC Department of Health Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt; DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Mayor’s Chief of Staff and Interim Deputy Mayor for Economic Development John Falcicchio, Children’s National Hospital President and CEO Dr. Kurt Newman, Trinity President Pat McGuire)
Mayor Muriel Bowser (who has a Trinity honorary degree) paid a visit to the Children’s field unit on Saturday during the pilot test run. During her visit, she and I also spoke briefly about the challenges that Trinity and other colleges and universities are currently facing — as well as K-12 schools — and I assured her that we are working closely with the high school seniors in DC who want to come to Trinity; we will work with them through the summer to make sure they can enroll in the fall as part of the Trinity Class of 2024.
Trinity’s and Children’s have long been great partners. Many Trinity students and their own children have received excellent care at the hospital. Trinity’s Nursing Program has reaped many benefits from clinical education at Children’s and the special relationships formed through participation in the William and Joanne Conway Programs for Nursing at both institutions. Trinity Biology faculty and students have also conducted biomedical research with Children’s, among other activities. Our longstanding partnership made it easy and speedy to respond to the urgent need for testing children during the coronavirus crisis.
We surely hope that the need for this field unit will not last for many weeks. We pray that this global pandemic and national emergency will abate soon, and that everyone afflicted will recover soon. But during this time of crisis, it’s certainly good to know that great institutions like Trinity and Children’s National Hospital can come together quickly and smartly to deliver critical services to our community. This is what the virtue of solidarity is all about.
See NBC4Washington story on the Children’s National Hospital field unit at Trinity.
Read Children’s National Press Release on this project