This article comes from an interview with Sister Patricia (Pat) McKittrick, SP who ministers in Winooski, Vermont.

Its purpose was to highlight the work of the Sisters of Providence who are keeping the Providence Mission alive in spite of the constraints of our world today.  It was given by Sister Pat to a Televised Town Meeting in Winooski, Vermont, USA.

The Town Meeting, moderated by Lauren-Glenn Davitian, interviewed Sr. Pat about the work of caring for the community of Winooski, Vermont, during the coronavirus, how she keeps herself centered, and the many ways people can get involved as helpers during this period and always.

L-G D: You are such a community organizer that I imagine you have found many things to work on during this COVID-19 period.

Sr. Pat: Community organizing and community building are very dear to my heart. I am trying to stay in touch with people and, I do many telephone calls, Zoom meetings, and many Webinars. Then I actually go out to the community with my mask, my gloves and my hand sanitizer. In addition, I think about the other people that I want to support and that I think are important to reach out, too; for example, some of the local businesses.

So one of the things we have been doing recently is reaching out to Papa Frank’s (Papa Frank’s is a locally owned and operated family restaurant in the heart of downtown Winooski). I call ahead and say: Could I have 6 or 8 lasagna dinners? They bring the dinners out to my car and then I call different people and distribute them. Sometimes, it is people that I think would really need a meal. Other times it is to say thank you to somebody who really works out in the community all the time and always thinks of other people. In addition, of course, as I am going through the people that I usually visit during the week, I think about the volunteers. Some volunteer because they want a place where they can feel useful in the community, and now they cannot do that, so I have tried to figure out how I can reach out to some of them.

However, I do want to say that people have been extremely generous. I have been surprised by the donations that came in the mail, gift cards saying: please give this to somebody that you think could use it.

L-G D: Please talk about some of the work that the volunteers are doing, the folks that you’re observing.

Sr. Pat: The volunteers are actually calling other people or are helping when they are out picking up something for someone else. As long as they are safe, that work can continue. They are also writing to people; for example, to a woman who just broke her hip. The volunteers call other volunteers saying that this person just had an accident and can you send cards to her. They are sending cards and doing phone calls, many things like that. Just checking in on people. I think that is important. It is staying connected and, with this virus, we realize how truly we are interconnected, more than ever. We realize how much we need each other and how much we have to keep reaching out.

The other thing that I think is important, at this time, is to share resources. From the hospitals or from the government, whatever is available. So people will know where they can get the help they need. In addition to the social isolation is the stress that it has brought upon people. Connecting is what I usually do in a session called “Humor and Health.”

I was speaking to a young mother the other day, she has four kids in school who have special needs and it is difficult to balance their schooling with everything else, even with Skype. It’s challenging for people to try to get everything done.

It’s important to make sure that you are getting yourself up, bathed and dressed, watering a plant or taking care of someone else and the animals. Reaching out, doing something that is fun, and being creative, using your body, mind and spirit. I think holistic care is important. You know, we cannot just work or just worry about things we need to finish. I tell people not to be listening to the news all day long. Some people say, “I hear all these things and I am really worried.” So I say: “Don’t listen to the news all day long. You hear it once, you get all the information, and that is all you need.”

L-G D:  So, Sister Pat, you are involved in a lot of social justice. I don’t mean that you are spreading yourself thin.  I don’t mean to suggest that, but I do understand that one of the areas that you work in has to do with Sex Trafficking and I wonder if you could talk about the kinds of provisions that are being made for that population during this time.

Sr. Pat: I am not the expert in that but I can certainty share what I know as well as what I was involved in this morning. At 11:00 we had a zoom meeting on Human Trafficking. One of the things that has happened because of the virus is that the persons who are in direct contact with the trafficked victims are not able to meet with them. It raises a trust issue for the person out there who is thinking: I was supported by somebody and now I don’t have that help. So we are really thinking about how we can meet differently. Edith Klimoski is the director of Give Ways to Freedom (a foundation to support survivors of Human Trafficking, as well as those vulnerable to trafficking). If somebody has an issue or we know someone who has an issue, persons can call her, and she will certainly reach out to them.  They volunteers can offer different ways to keep someone out of danger: they can put them up in a motel or hotel and get them out of a dangerous situation.  And we never talk about rescuing someone on the phone because if the seller is there, they are going to make life miserable for the other person.  We don’t want to put the victim in danger of harm. So it is important to try to do something less traumatic. That’s one of the things we are doing.

Also, today we are thinking of people that may have gotten out of a situation, but are still in an unstable financial state. We might be able to provide them with gas cards or food cards…things like that, until they can get on their feet. We are trying to help persons so they don’t feel so disconnected.  And we are trying to educate people about “what is trafficking”. Finally, I think people understand that trafficking does happen here.

I believe that we are all called to be our best selves and to help each other. I do want to say I’m really blessed to be working where I am. UVM Medical Center has been very good to me, trusting me to be out in the community. To meet the needs that need to be met and when we find something, I go back and say, I think this is something that we could be looking at, and they really take that information seriously.

Social justice and democracy are very important to us.  We all know that.

So thank you very much!

To see the interview:

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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