Ministries during COVID-19

During this time of social distancing, many schools and non-profits are re-organizing and rethinking ways to stay connected to students, employees, supporters and the under-served. The School Sisters of Notre Dame ministries are working to maintain interaction and support for their students, clients and employees. Learn what Mount Mary University, MORE and Theresa Living Center are doing during this time.

 

Mount Mary University

By Dr. Christine Pharr, President of Mount Mary University.

Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, like others across the country, is dealing with the challenges of COVID-19. Our classes are held online through the rest of the spring semester and our support staff are providing abundant resources for students throughout the transition, from technology to counseling and financial support. They call, text, email and use Zoom to connect with our students and to make sure they are doing alright.

Virtual appointments and webinars are offered to prospective students and all campus offices may be reached online.

Faculty are using teleconferencing technology to actively engage with students. The University distributed computers and hotspots to employees who are working at home, as well as students who didn’t have the technology required to participate in online classes.

Mount Mary University Logo

The University has engaged in significant fundraising to support students financially through various emergency grants. These grants are being awarded on a daily basis to assist students with necessities like rent, food, medical bills, transportation, etc. About 40 students have remained in the campus residence halls and they are practicing social distancing.

Unfortunately, the pandemic forced Mount Mary’s spring commencement to be postponed, prompting leaders to survey students regarding alternative ways to commemorate graduation.

Graduates have requested to hold a ceremony at a later date this summer, which has not yet been determined.

Additionally CREO, which means to create in Spanish, is the annual celebration of the arts, the student fashion, arts and interior design show. This is a major campus event, which has been postponed until an alternative can be developed to showcase students’ work. Students are currently exploring other options for showcasing their creations.

This situation, however unfortunate, has sparked a sense of innovation and determination that demonstrates our creativity in the most challenging of circumstances. The care and concern that Mount Mary University shows for its students has never been more evident!

MORE

By Cathy Rucci, Director of MORE

MORE, in St. Paul, Minnesota, closed their building on Friday, March 27, but the deep commitment to serve continues. English classes for adults pivoted to distance and virtual learning. Students are working by themselves on digital platforms, meeting with their teachers via GoToMeetings, or if they don’t have the equipment or skills to work via the internet, their teachers have sent them packets of worksheets. Teachers have begun to plan for the summer classes as well, both for in-person and virtual classes.

MORE Logo

The team at MORE may not be able to distribute food directly, but thanks to funding from the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, they continue to work to safely meet the basic needs of their participants. Over 30 families received $50 grocery store gift cards. There is enough funding at this point to send a second round of gift cards later this month. These gift cards are especially important to participants as they can be used for items in addition to food such as diapers, laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc.

The staff meets virtually regularly in order to maintain connection and inspiration. One employee is assigned to each virtual staff meeting to lead an opening and closing prayer, updates are provided by each employee and they share what’s giving them the most stress, as well as what they’re the most excited about. Every Monday, the team practices chair yoga together to get centered and focus on the upcoming week!

MORE’s financial stability has been helped considerably by receiving the Payment Protection Loan as part of the federal CARES Act. These funds provide two months of payroll and will eventually be forgiven. But, there remain other bills to pay so fundraising continues. MORE will be participating in Minnesota’s online giving day, GiveAtHomeMN taking place the first week of May. They’ve also shifted their Run for Refugees 5K to a virtual event. Participants will receive event t-shirts and if they complete the 5K on their own, they are encouraged to share their times.

MORE remains an important resource to the community during COVID-19 in many ways. Those listed here, as well as, sharing a clear understanding of the current realities with the people we serve. Recently, a staff member received a message that some of our newest neighbors thought the stimulus funds they received from the United States government were required to be paid back. Immediately, the MORE staff began an internal campaign to ensure that MORE’s participants understood the situation, why those funds have been distributed and that none of us will be required to repay those funds.

MORE’s leadership is very grateful to the staff for being able to do their work, while also being personally impacted by the quarantine. MORE’s employees are remarkable, extraordinary and unparalleled!

Theresa Living Center

By Sister Rita Jirik, Founder of Theresa Living Center

Logo of Theresa Living Center, St. Paul

How can a residential home such as Theresa Living Center (TLC) in St. Paul, Minnesota, respond to the coronavirus? According to Lucy Zanders, Executive Director, “Keeping residents safe is a challenge. Providing housing to those previously homeless and used to being mobile who are now asked to shelter in place, is part of this challenge. TLC implemented safety measures by educating residents on how the virus can be spread, how one case could impact all residents and informing residents on measures that need to be taken to protect an environment in congregate living.”

Measures implemented at TLC include frequent sanitizing of dining room tables, door knobs and other frequently used surfaces. Residents are asked to observe social distancing and frequent hand washing. All residents are asked to wear masks when they leave the building. They are allowed to leave only for grocery shopping, medical appointments and work, only if they are essential employees. When returning, all are met at the door by a staff person who monitors hand washing, where jackets, purses and groceries are laid, and how surfaces are sanitized when groceries are put away.

Staff members wear masks at all times. Once they have logged in, they are asked to sanitize every surface i.e. door knobs, tables, doors, light switches and handles. The residents are responsible for checking the “chores” they are asked to do for different areas, to ensure the building is sanitized as much as possible.

Residents of TLC and participants of Caroline Family Services (CFS) scattered sites, meaning the apartments women live in with their families outside of the residential home, had previously met at the residential home for in-service programs on a weekly basis with speakers, child care and a meal. During this pandemic, the workshops continue, but are done via Zoom or conference calls. Presenters send materials ahead of time. For those with no phone, staff provides access to phone lines while observing social distancing. Lucy reports, “There has been great participation on the part of both residents of TLC and participants of the CFS scattered sites.”

The hardest part in this experience is that the staff is required to come to work. They need to keep safe, knowing that they return to their own homes and families. They do not want to contract the virus while being committed to safeguarding the residents they serve. All of this is mentally draining.

It is also difficult to refuse a hug from one of the toddlers who are used to running to anyone willing to pick them up for a hug. Their moms are forced to hold on to them to help with social distancing. Yes, these are unprecedented times, when normal relationships are no longer the norm, but everyone is asked to do their part.

 
 
You may also be interested in:
  • Carol and Rosie: A forever friendship Carol Hardy met Sister Rose Helen Miller in 1956, and the two maintained a friendship until Sister Rosie’s passing. They credit their friendship to a willingness to keep in contact and the ease of using Facebook and email.
  • Use this time of the year to reflect on God’s works Earlier this year, Provincial Councilor Sister Anna Marie Reha found herself astounded at God’s vast beauty and endless abundance. Now that it is summertime, a typical time of rest and relaxation and for enjoying all of God’s creation, she finds herself reflecting again on the encyclical Laudato Si.
  • Green Hope Gardens are a sign of mercy In 2010, SSND associates in Ohio and West Virginia reflected on what they could do to nourish those in need while being good stewards of the land. The result was Green Hope Gardens, which contributes fresh vegetables to the local food pantry.
 

Want to learn more?

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School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100

info@ssndcp.org

 

© 2017 School Sisters of Notre Dame