The Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province in Seattle, have been very busy these days.
In this strange new world we’re navigating, we have no choice but to break out of our established patterns and look at what we do – how we connect, how we work, how we live – in different ways. It seems like forever since we gathered for a celebration or gave someone a hug. But we’re learning how to cope by adapting to the needs of the day, remaining flexible for the future, and thinking creatively along the way.
Six months into the pandemic, the sisters of Mother Joseph Province and staff have fallen into routines to meet the required health and safety regulations, including masks, social distancing, online meetings, limited travel, even regular COVID testing. While it is common to think wistfully of the pre-pandemic days, life has changed course, creating new challenges, new opportunities and nudging us along different paths.
The whole community is adapting in one way or another. Many ministries have paused during this unprecedented period, affording more time for personal, professional and spiritual development. Other ministries have been reinvented, requiring new approaches, such as learning how to journey with people remotely. Many sisters are taking advantage of online resources to build skills, complete training programs, participate in conferences or nurture spirit.
Adaptability is also evident in the new ministries that have been born out of necessity. Sister Margarita Hernandez and Sister Hong Nga Nguyen started making masks early on for the sisters, employees at nursing homes, family, friends, and community groups. Over 15 weeks, they made more than 1000 masks! Recently, they provided 600 masks for returning students at All Saints School in Spokane, Wash.
We are seeing ongoing flexibility as well. Some Sisters had to move in order to complete courses, others who used to travel to board meetings now attend online sessions from their apartments. Even the 2020 jubilarians, have rescheduled their August celebration to July 2021. And Provincial Administration staff continue their work, from home and office, some balancing the needs of school-aged children or the care of aging parents from their makeshift offices.
Creativity is key in efforts to create community in the time of coronavirus. At St. Joseph Residence in Seattle, Program Coordinator Lisa Kumar has been a model of creativity hosting regular activities to keep the sisters in the retirement home safely connected and engaged. They celebrate every holiday, stay active with “sports” like indoor bowling, and continue to promote social justice issues – including a virtual protest. In addition, the now bi-weekly Messages of Hope & Healing publication has become a connecting point for sisters throughout the province, with stories, quotes, prayers, reflections and photos to inspire them through these times of increased isolation.
As we practice adaptability, flexibility and creativity within the congregation and staff, we are also joyfully recognizing it in the greater community. When the sisters in El Salvador requested financial support to help families impacted by COVID and tropical storms, we turned to our donors. We were overwhelmed by their generous response, vastly exceeding our fundraising goal to rebuild damaged homes, provide computers for students, and furnish food and medication for families devastated by hardship and loss.
It is tough living in a time when we need each other more than ever, yet we must stay apart. But we will carry on, striving for adaptability, flexibility and creativity, and trusting in Providence.
As you can see the art of adaptability, flexibility and creativity is being well practiced in Seattle and beyond! Many of the WPC congregations are doing similar things which just goes to show it takes more than a Covid-19 virus to shut down Providence Sisters!
Barbara McMullen, CDP