For our latest Collaboration issue we asked congregations to tell us how they are coping with the pandemic. The following article is excerpted from the submission from the Sisters of Providence in Mother Joseph province in Seattle, WA.
For the 105 Sisters of Providence in Mother Joseph Province, the coronavirus pandemic has given the sisters an imposed contemplative period, become a catalyst for rapid change, and challenged them to connect in creative and compassionate ways for community, spirituality and ministry.
Under the thoughtful guidance of the new Leadership Team–only a few months into their term–the sisters are rising to the occasion within strict physical boundaries and public health requirements. Because the Provincial Administration Office and many sisters of Mother Joseph Province are located in the Seattle area–an early epicenter of the virus–life as they knew it was upended in early March. The Leadership Team moved quickly to endure rigorous health and safety measures were in place for the most vulnerable sisters and caregivers at the Sisters of providence retirement facilities in Seattle and Spokane.
There were many changes that took place. Health checks of sisters and staff were conducted daily, visitors were no longer permitted, chapels were closed, dining services were adjusted to minimize contact, the administrative staff of the province began working from home and sisters throughout Washington, Oregon, California, El Salvador, and the Philippines were under strict stay-at-home orders as well.
Sisters turned to laptops, tablets, and mobile phones for connection–even some of the most technologically timid gave it a try. All those tools became indispensable for facilitating continued community, ministry, spirituality, leadership, and support in Mother Joseph Province.
These sisters have a long history of “responding to the needs of the day” inspired by their foundress, Emilie Gamelin of Montreal. They set about to make masks for sisters, staff, and caregivers. Retired Sisters prepared sandwiches for homeless individuals while practicing social distancing themselves. They continued to offer counseling sessions and tutoring ESL students; hosted remote prayer groups, and made calls to check in on others. Though it is hard not to reach out and tell people that they are praying for their safety and good health, nevertheless, these sisters continue to trust in providence that there will be an end to this pandemic.
Barbara McMullen, CDP