News & Politics

Gonzaga High School President Recovers From Covid-19

Father Stephen Planning had tested positive for the virus in mid-March.

Gonzaga College High School. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A recent test detected “no trace” of Covid-19 remaining in Father Stephen Planning, the president of Gonzaga College High School in the District, according to a letter Planning sent to members of the school’s community.

Planning had been diagnosed with the virus in mid-March.

In the letter, which was emailed Thursday, Planning also said that on account of the recent test result, he has been authorized to end his two-and-a-half weeks of isolation.

“I have been giving thanks to God for this great news,” Planning said in his letter. “I want also to thank all of you for your kind thoughts, well wishes, and mostly your prayers, which I felt throughout my illness.”

Here is the full letter:

Dear Gonzaga School Community,

On Wednesday, April 1st, I was officially given permission to end my eighteen days of isolation after having been retested for the coronavirus by the DC Department of Health mobile testing unit. The test found no trace of the virus remaining in my system. Since then, I have been giving thanks to God for this great news. I want also to thank all of you for your kind thoughts, well wishes, and mostly your prayers, which I felt throughout my illness. It is in these most difficult times that we feel the importance of the communities of support that surround us. Thank you for being that community of support for me and each other!

My last letter to the Gonzaga community was in the Eye Street Headlines on Friday, March 13th. Little did I know then that I would be tested the next day and would be diagnosed with the coronavirus. In my letter, I talked about St. Ignatius’ belief that God is to be found in all things, even in times of adversity. Right now, all of us are steeped in that time of great adversity whether sick or not. Can God still be found?

We all live with the belief that we are the ones who are in control of our lives. While it is necessary to live this way in order to be happy and healthy, there are those moments in life which remind us, sometimes very painfully, that we are in fact not in full control of our lives, our health, and our world. This is one of those times.

One of the greatest leaders of the Society of Jesus was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ. He was the Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965 until 1983. While normally the leader of the Jesuits is elected for life, Fr. Arrupe’s time as General ended unexpectedly and suddenly when he suffered a massive, debilitating stroke. While he would not die until 1991, his life took a dramatic turn. This great man, who had been Novice Master of the Jesuits in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped and survived, who led the Jesuits through the tumult of the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, and who was fluent in a half dozen languages, suddenly found that he could barely speak his native Spanish. When the Jesuits gathered in Rome to elect a new Superior General, Fr. Arrupe sent a letter which was read on his behalf to the Jesuit representatives gathered from all over the world. His words have been coming to me time and again as I have been navigating my illness and recovery.

He said to his brother Jesuits, “…More than ever, I now find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life, from my youth. And this is still the one thing I want. But now there is a difference: the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in his hands…”

More than ever, in these most difficult days for our country and our world, this is precisely where we find ourselves, in God’s hands. Strangely enough, it is not a comfortable place to be. We prefer being independent, self-sufficient, and in control. To find ourselves so utterly dependent on anyone, including God, can force us to let go of what feels most comfortable to us. Yet it is necessary so that we might abandon ourselves completely to our God whose love brought us into existence, and whose love will see us through eternity.

As we navigate these uncharted waters, know that we are indeed in the hands of God. We will get through because of God’s unfailing love. However, the reality is that for some of us, the burdens will be hard to bear, some of us will find our lives altered dramatically, and we will need the love and support of our families and the Gonzaga community. Because it is in the context of the faith community that the crosses we have to bear become lighter when shouldered with the help of all. There is no faith community quite as wonderful as the Gonzaga community. And it is precisely in such a community as ours that God’s love finds its strength.

Please know that my fellow Jesuits of Eye Street and I are praying for you daily. Let us hold one another together in prayer until life returns to normal.

May God bless you and keep you healthy,

Rev. Stephen Planning, S.J.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.