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Religious nuns and friars offer prayers and wisdom for COVID-19

By Ann Marie Foley - 19 March, 2020

It is understandable to feel fear and anxiety when the way we need to respond to this crisis separates us from the very things that help to keep us grounded and connected.

Cloistered nuns self isolating for years.

A cloistered nun who says she has been “social distancing” for 29 years has offered her tips to people staying home during the COVID-19 crisis.

In an interview, Sister Mary Catharine Perry, a cloistered nun with the Dominicans in the US, said that she had chosen to practise social distancing with 17 other nuns. Of course, they do not call it that, but they never leave their monastery in Summit, New Jersey, except for visits to the doctor or shopping for a specific item.

She advises people who need to practise social distancing during the current crisis:

1. Establish structure, as a regular routine gives a sense of consistency and rhythm. For the nuns, this means they have planned time for prayer, worship, work, eating and fun. For a family during this crisis, it might mean starting work or homeschooling at a set time and having a break at the same time every day.

2. Be intentional and love others, because naturally people seek to look after their own needs and those of their loved ones. As well as that they need to reach out to others by offering to shop or cook for someone else like a neighbour.

3. Use this time for self-reflection and relaxation. These weeks can be the opportunity for a more quiet, simple life.

“Stop. Be still. You can either waste this period of social-distancing and be frustrated, or you can choose to make it the best it can be,” she concluded.

She is among the many members of religious orders and communities who have been offering words of support to people in the face of COVID-19.

Kathleen McGarvey, Provincial Leader, OLA, stated that it is understandable to feel fear and anxiety when the way we need to respond to this crisis separates us from the very things that help to keep us grounded and connected. She said that many people may not be able to visit with family and friends, nor to attend church services and be gathered with community.

“God is not confined to the church buildings and gathering places. God lives within each and every one of us. We need only still the noise within and remember, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’, Psalm 46:1,” she said.

She asked people to pray for the sick and those affected by COVID-19 and offered to take prayer intentions which can be submitted online.

The Pallottine blog highlighted St Patrick in isolation. “Isolation – the astonishing extent of it – is almost more fearsome than the disease itself. It is a challenge for families who have self-isolated, even more so for the elderly who are having isolation imposed on them, facing the prospect of not seeing their families for weeks or even months. The loneliness of that is perhaps something not considered by the experts and those in power,” the blogger stated.

Mount Melleray Monastery

The crisis offers us time for reflection and to pray. It is also a time for families to spend more time together, to have fun together, the blogger writes.

Mount Melleray Abbey, Co. Waterford, published the homily of Abbot Richard, who celebrated Mass with the community in the oratory on St Patrick’s Day and said: “Patrick was used by God as an instrument to make his name and his love known among the Irish. It’s a story of persistence and hardship. It’s a story of effort and determination, a story of forgiveness and love. The life and story of Patrick, like those of all the saints, is given to us as a model, but also as a support in the Christian life.”

He added that St Patrick showed us that: “we should never dismiss or despair of the power of God to work in and through our lives, no matter what situation or circumstance we find ourselves in; we need to be aware of our need for God’s mercy in our lives and the necessity of showing that mercy to others; and thirdly an awareness of the presence of Christ with us in all that we do.”

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