Dear JP2 Project Family,

You may be wondering how the coronavirus is affecting our students or programs this year. The situation has shed light on the peace that comes from trusting in the Lord, and the ways in which God blesses this mission. We see:

  1. The  advantage  that our small program has over a large one to ensure safety of our students and staff.
  2. Another reason Poland is awesome.  They have one of the lowest numbers of reported cases of the countries within the EU. 
  3. What a blessing it is to receive professional risk management consulting [pro-bono].
  4. What a blessing it is to belong to the Forum of Education Abroad, especially for handling a situation of this caliber with regards to higher education.
  5. How excited our students and pilgrims are to participate this year and how they are not moved by fear!
  6. Most institutions are calling shots as events unfold, and so are we. Like our peer institutions, we are hopeful for programming in 2020, and time will tell.
  7. How important it is to use facts and reason, over fear and naivety in situations like this.

Below is a more detailed description of how exactly we are handling the situation, current status of our programs this year, and the resources we have in place to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

1. Safety taken seriously. We are fortunate to receive professional risk management consulting from the inception of the Project’s creation, from a global specialist (who is Catholic and supports the Project with this pro-bono service).  We’ve had protocols in place – and continue to adapt them – to ensure the safety of our current staff and students abroad. Our professional support is a great help in assessing the developing situation and to carry forward  with clarity.

2. We don’t fly solo. Our membership within the FORUM of Education Abroad has proven to be critical when it comes to developing and operating our study abroad programs according to standards of best practice in the field. The FORUM has provided us with excellent resources and insights into directives and peer decisions regarding implications of events surrounding coronavirus. It’s been extremely helpful to plug into their exclusive webinars and connect with expert peers in the field.

We recommend reading the letter the Forum issued to the CDC regarding study abroad recommendations and operating to serve students’ actual best interests.

3. Our current cohort is safe. The safety of our current students and staff abroad is our top concern, followed by their academic progress. Poland fortunately is one of the safest places to be in Europe right now. The on-site directors, Josh and Megan Madden, who live with their four children (ages 0-7), feel very safe not only in Poland, but also in our private residence hall. The “family” approach to community life is as important as ever, as the students have followed the emotionally packed media coverage. The university in Krakow has closed the buildings for 2 weeks as a preventative measure. Students are able to continue studies and look forward to resuming classes next to the Royal Castle soon!

4. Our small and private advantage: We are fortunate to have a small program that heavily focuses on clear and open communication, as in a healthy family. On a practical level, the size and nature of our program puts us at an advantage to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students. One example is that we are able to manage the independent travel of students quite easily because of our policy of formally submitting requests for weekend trips for approval. Same for guests coming to the dorm. When the coronavirus outbreak happened, there was no need to freak out, nor did we need to implement a new system. It was simply a matter of specifying criteria based on current data for approving travel or visitors (i.e. no trips or visitors from Italy this semester).

5. Student Feedback for Upcoming Programs. Before making any rash decisions about cancelling or keeping our upcoming programs for 2020, in the spirit of our patron, we consulted with those whom it affects. On March 12th, we submitted a survey to all of our program applicants to gauge their feedback. The overwhelming response has been that students and pilgrims very much still hope to and plan on attending their program this year. Regarding study abroad, we’ve also begun reaching out to specific universities to ask whether or not they plan on running or cancelling their Summer or Fall programs. While few have already suspended all programming, the majority of schools are currently hoping to move forward with future programs in 2020. 

6. Year of John Paul II. If the situation clears up soon, will run our programs for 2020. There will need to be no European travel bans at the time of our program dates, and be safe and advisable to travel. As everyone in the field has said, we have no crystal ball to tell the future. This is why we are very flexible for our deposits and payment deadlines this year, and ensuring that the travel insurances work in students’ favor. If the circumstances prohibit programming, then we certainly look forward to having these students and pilgrims in Poland next year, and offering some way for everyone to celebrate the Year of John Paul II in 2020.

7. Jesus, We Trust in You. The Lord has made it loud and clear that He wants this mission to continue. We are dedicated to forming young people as the builders of a civilization of love and truth, in the teachings and example of John Paul II-  wherever and however God calls! We are not perturbed by this, rather we trust that even in the worst circumstances, God’s great love can be made manifest. Sometimes bad things turn into great happenings, as we see in salvation history: from the crucifixion to resurrection!

Additional Resources

In addition to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and John’s Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, here are some links to other pertinent resources:

Our risk management consultant

FORUM on Education Abroad

Great Visual Graphic on Actual Coronavirus Impact

NAFSA: Association of International Educators- Coronavirus Resources

Next Sunday’s Mass Readings, which call us to take faith in the Lord who calls us to be children of light.

Thank you for your prayers and dedication to this beautiful mission!

God bless you,

Joe & Corinne MacDonald

Co-Founders of the John Paul II Project