Together—Apart

During this pandemic and time of social distancing, the Ursuline Sisters are seeking new ways to reach out to others, meet the needs of our ministries, and continue our mission of being a peaceful, reconciling presence of God in the world.

A Reflection

The sun breaks through welcoming me to another day of life, of hope for our world.

It shimmers through the branches of the blossoming tree outside my window as it fades into the grayness of the sky.

And it says

“You be the sun today. Bring warmth, love, hope into our world.”

Sister Mary Ellen Neeves

Since spring break ended, Sister Mary Ann Dooling has been teaching her theology classes to Ursuline Academy–St. Louis students online. Initially apprehensive about how she would adapt her teaching style to the new reality, by her second week in she’s already a pro.

Since February, Sister Mary Jacqueline Pratt has been facilitating Sunday scripture sharing for a small group at Mother of Perpetual Help in St. Louis. When all group activities were canceled on March 16, the activity director asked if she would facilitate scripture sharing each day. Since lockdown began, she has been meeting in the chapel with a group of about 10 residents—spaced six feet apart—for prayer and sharing on the daily scripture.

Meeting Monday through Friday for about 45 minutes, Sister Mary Jacqueline says, “Initially, it seemed like ‘work,’ but now that we are in a rhythm, it has become a fruitful way to begin the day.”

Fairdale Prayer Bowl

Just before the coronavirus lockdown, the Ursuline community of five on Fairdale in St. Louis made and distributed cards to their neighbors in the 24 houses on their street. The card read:

“Dear Neighbor, We, Catholic Sisters who live at the beginning of Fairdale Avenue, want you to know that we care about you and pray for you, your family and loved ones. This is a very challenging time for our whole world, but we trust that God is with us always. If, at any time, you have a special need or intention that you would like us to include in your prayers just email or phone us (email and phone number included,) and we will put it on our prayer table. United with you all, Sisters Elisa, Mary Ellen, Pauline, Rita Ann and Susan.”

Prayer requests that they received in response were put in the “prayer bowl” on the table where they gather each day for community prayer.

Sister Pauline Lorch and her Fairdale community are keeping in touch with the neighbors while social distancing in St. Louis. They posted this picture on their window for the neighborhood children to find while out walking with their families on virtual scavenger hunts.

Sister Mary Lapping, who has been teaching immigrants in St. Louis in recent years, has found new ways to help them while social distancing.

“Recently, with the onset of the coronavirus, I’ve had to stop classes with two of my students,” she says. “Neither speaks English well enough to communicate by electronic means, but the husband of one does. So, we have been in communication about the CDC guidelines. I want to make sure they understand what to do to keep safe during this outbreak. I’ve also been in touch with a couple of past students to help them understand what hand sanitizers are and how to disinfect surfaces.

“Also, they are finding the communications about the census difficult to understand, so we’ve been talking about that and how to proceed.”

Ursuline mask makers are at work across the province, including Sister Karen Schwane in San Antonio and Sister Susan Kienzler in St. Louis. Sister Karen wears one of her own creations while joining the Sisters of Divine Providence in their sewing room. They are making masks for the staff in the Sisters of Divine Providence’s skilled care facility. Sister Susan is making masks for her community as well as her nephew, a nurse assigned to a COVID-19 unit in Denver, and his co-workers.

Driveway Rainbow

Because of COVID-19, our sisters in New Orleans and their SBP (St. Bernard Parish) partners working on Ursuline-sponsored houses have been unable to go out and rebuild. Instead, they are keeping in touch by phone with those they have helped, offering hope, encouragement and, when needed, food.

As a sign of hope in their Valence Street neighborhood, Sisters Regina Marie Fronmuller, Ginger Cirone, Mary Anne Holmes (and Magdalita Roussel) painted a rainbow on their driveway!

It’s comforting to know our sisters at Francis Place in Eureka, Missouri, are being well cared for—and having some fun—during this difficult time.

Adaptability can be key to success in helping others these days, and the sisters in our Sutherland community in St. Louis are adapting quickly.

Notes Sister Madonna O’Hara, “Our Sutherland community (St. Louis) had offered to prepare a meal for the 20 persons presently in the Room at the Inn program for homeless families. A week before, we received word that their policy needed to change and they no longer could accept prepared food from the outside. However, we were able to direct our energies to the lunch program at St. Vincent de Paul Parish by getting prepackaged items for the huge numbers of lunches they give out daily.

“When Sister Jean was preparing goody bags for our sisters in healthcare facilities, I offered to include some homemade cookies. She took the first batch to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, but that very day we found out that the other two sites, Francis Place and St. Agnes, had new restrictions concerning food gifts. So, no cookies; we are sending notes and making phone calls instead.

“As with so much of our lives these days, I have come to realize that efforts to help others need to be flexible and easily changed.”

Since quarantine, Sisters Theresa Davey, Brendan Jacoby and Nancy Vandeveer in Springfield, Illinois, have added a time each morning to pray together for those affected by the virus. They posted a sign of hope in their front yard and spend much of their days in quarantine calling, texting and writing friends of their Springfield community, Ursulines in assisted-living and skilled-care facilities—and elsewhere around the province—and their families and friends.

During this pandemic, self-care is important, too. After doing what they can to support and comfort others, Sisters Nancy Vandeveer, Brendan Jacoby and Theresa Davey in Springfield, Illinois, look after their own health by working out in their basement gym.

Meanwhile, Sister Rosemary Skelley in nearby Decatur spends time each day at her parish church, where parishioners often come to speak with her—from a safe distance. The conversations are mutually beneficial, she says.

St. Ursula's College, Toowoomba, Australia

The day before the pandemic caused schools to close in Toowoomba, Australia, the senior girls of St. Ursula’s College began a “Yellow Hope” campaign. They tied yellow ribbons in various places around the school and encouraged all students and other school community members to tie yellow ribbons, wreaths or balloons on a tree, their mail box or front door as a symbol of the fact that—no matter what uncertainty there is in the world—they are hope-filled people, and to share this sense of hope in the community.

Ursuline Mother General Susan Flood then invited Ursuline provinces around the world to adopt and share this display of hope. Sister Jean Hopman hung ours at the Central Province offices on Monday, and we continue to enjoy new pictures of the ribbons going up in many countries.

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