The Sisters of St. Francis have been reaching out to others during this COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 has affected the lives of each of us in many ways. Some of these impacts are direct. Many in Franklin and Ripley Counties struggle to maintain their households.
We advocated for paid sick days and the expansion of unemployment insurance so that people do not have to choose between going to work sick and paying their rent/mortgage or feeding their families. We advocated for a national moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. We also advocated for more testing and PPE for health workers for their safety and the safety of our communities. Every day we pray for each of us in our counties, the state of Indiana, the United States, and the entire world community.
In the convent we are taking safety precautions. One significant change the Sisters have made is in their meal protocol. We have changed the way meals are served—Sisters are served their food and they no longer serve themselves, eliminating serving utensils being passed from person to person. When lining up for meals they also distance themselves. The Sisters sit only two at a table, which has led to more knowledge of each other through the sharing and conversations.
The Activity Director, Mary Ellen Rinklin, has planned engaging activities. Since we are not able to gather in groups we are doing our activities from the Community Room and showing it over our closed circuit TV system. Our Stretch and Movement program has been a great success! Instead of groups of approximately 8 sisters we broadcast the program every day at 10:00 am to the Sisters’ TV. The silver lining to this is instead of participating in an exercise class once or twice a week the Sisters can tune in every morning Monday-Friday!
We normally show a movie every Friday afternoon but we have added 3 more hand-picked, uplifting movies a week to our schedule hoping to brighten Sisters’ spirits. S. Bernice Stenger and S. Olga Wittekind present “Tips for Well Being” each week presenting on spiritual renewal and how to keep healthy in mind, body, and soul. These programs help to release anxiety during this difficult time.
Since the Sisters are not able to gather in groups, Mary Ellen has come up with some other activities. She has been “interviewing” two Sisters a week, one-on-one in an Oprah-type format. The objective is for the Sisters to tell their story and allow others to learn something new about their childhood, call to religious life, and growth in their ministries.
Some of the Sisters ministering in their place of employment are actually still ON the front lines! One Sister goes to work most days at a Retirement Center in Cincinnati. She reports, “We are all VERY CAREFUL – we’ve worn masks for weeks, and now the residents do as well. For direct contact we also wear gloves. And washing hands NUMEROUS times a day is just ordinary for us. We keep our social distance, when interacting, and at meals.”
There have been blessings during these weeks. The Sisters have more time for personal prayer and contemplation and praying for all the sick and dying in our world. Puzzles have been made with butterflies—symbol of new life—as a remembrance of the coronavirus sequestered time. Each of you continue to be held in our prayers!