By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
MOBILE — Archdiocese of Mobile seminarian Michael Barber got an early taste of “social distancing” and said it will be tough for many, but God is working through it.
Barber recently completed two weeks self-quarantined in rural Mississippi. He and 13 other seminarians studying at St. John Vianney College Seminary were studying abroad in Rome when they were suddenly called back to the U.S. because of COVID-19. He tested negative for the virus upon returning to the U.S. and has had no symptoms since returning the weekend of Feb. 29, but still self-quarantined at a home his grandparents own outside Jackson, Miss.
“It’s definitely going to be tough for everyone, just the lack of community there’s going to be,” Barber said. “It’s definitely one of those things that’s concerning, but we know God is working through it and He’s going to bring some good out of it. We’re just going to wait and see what that will be.”
Barber is from Montgomery and a Holy Spirit Catholic Church parishioner. He left his grandparents’ residence Friday, March 20.
St. John Vianney asked students to leave campus and classes are being taught online.
Barber spent about a month in Rome and while it was disappointing to be called back, he understood it was for the best.
“We were all kind of bummed a little bit and we were hoping to stay because it’s pretty awesome to be in Rome, but it was a smart move for us to come back,” Barber said.
In describing the atmosphere in Rome before he left, Barber said it “wasn’t a big deal.” But since the pandemic hit Italy, there have been more than 5,000 deaths and almost 60,000 confirmed cases as of March 23, with northern Italy being the most-affected.
“The general atmosphere (in Rome) was (people were) kind of nonchalant about the whole thing. But then obviously we realized this is a little more serious than we think,” Barber said.