Sister of Providence, Anne Hemstock, tells us how the lives of her Sisters have changed due to Covid-19. She writes:
“Wash your hands,”, “stay home,” “social distancing,” “stay apart while staying connected,” are all themes repeated over and over everywhere.
“Unfortunately, Anawim Place a small food bank operated by the Sisters in downtown Edmonton has had to close until further notice. The building is small making social distancing impossible and the volunteers who make such wonderful things happen are older men and women who are at particular risk for the virus.
We are in solidarity with those whose lives have been changed forever during this experience. Because Providence Centre has accredited, licensed continuing care beds, the regulations regarding cleaning protocols, service restrictions, a policy of no visitors (including major superiors of other religious communities in residence), social distancing (in the chapel, dining room and elsewhere) are all adhered to carefully. Nursing staff serve meals to the Sisters in their rooms if they are not able to come to the dining room. Dietary staff serve trays in the dining room and all food items are individually wrapped. (at one point, even a banana). Buffet service is not permitted anywhere at this time.
The Sisters are well and safe for which we are grateful. While staff working for Providence Centre itself are all considered essential services our retreat and conference Centre, Providence Renewal Centre is closed with its programs cancelled until further notice, casual staff have been laid off to allow them to collect unemployment insurance, the same for Providence Centre library staff. Provincial Administration staff have continued to work until last week when the facility was declared to be in outbreak. Telephone contact and e-mail keep us in the loop and together while apart. Hopefully, everyone will be able to return to work soon!
The administrator meets regularly with all the Sisters of the house to update them on the current status of Alberta Health Services and Alberta Public Health requirements as they change almost daily. Among the requirements is that if a staff person is an employee of two sites, he/she must work at only one facility going forward to prevent community transmission of the virus from one facility to another. Several of our staff are now working elsewhere; we miss their friendly smile and warm greetings.
One of the stark realities which has come to light during this experience is that many, many long-term care centres are woefully short staffed with residents being neglected. As a corollary of that, the wages paid to front-line health care workers are not sufficient to provide a decent living for them and for their families. Over half of the deaths recorded are of residents in long-term care facilities.
One of the significant changes the Sisters and the faithful of all denominations are experiencing is the closure of our chapel and churches throughout the country. In ordinary times the chapel at Providence Centre welcomes the broader community each day for the Eucharist and on Sunday there are often over one hundred people joining us. Our parish pastor consecrates hosts for our use, so we are able to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and receive the Eucharist each morning at 9:00 a.m. Fortunately, Sisters are able to see the service on the closed-circuit television available in their rooms. We are careful with social distancing – we are about twelve or fourteen people in a chapel which seats six hundred.
Meetings, gatherings and celebrations of all kinds have been postponed or cancelled, among them our annual jubilee celebration held in June and the first vows of Sister Thuy Nguyen who was to celebrate her profession on April 26th.
Holy Week and Easter services this year were very simple: there were no palms on Palm Sunday, liturgy of the Word for Holy Thursday without the washing of the feet or a procession to the Community Room for repose of the Blessed Sacrament following the service and no adoration of the cross on Good Friday. We are in solidarity with those whose sufferings and loss are far more significant than our own.
The Sisters of Providence Centre gather each afternoon to recite the rosary for those whose lives have been touched by the virus, those who have died and an end to the virus soon. Providence of God we hope in you.”
We certainly wish all of them well–that they may be safe and protected from the virus.
Barbara McMullen, CDP