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Social distancing and COVID-19

By Sister Mary Kay Brooks , Provincial Councilor
Mary Kay Brooks, SSND

I struggle to begin sharing what has been happening in the lives of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and particularly with the provincial council, as we continue to live with the pandemic of COVID-19. Our lives are radically different since mid-March. We have been in social distancing mode since then but very much connected through different technological platforms. As a council, we meet via technology every week and more often as new situations arise. This is a strange, humbling and surreal experience. My personal image for life these days is that of a teeter-totter. From moment to moment, day to day, I go back and forth from disbelief to frustration to fear and then to vigilance. How do we best protect our sisters, especially our elders who are most vulnerable? How do we keep our staff safe? How do we show our appreciation for all the extra work being done on our behalf? How do we move forward with a vision of hope to be transformed for mission? Even on a teeter-totter there is a base, an anchor, a center. When I feel myself swinging from high to low and back again, I see and hear signs of hope from the larger community. My heart turns to the base, to my anchor, to my center and I know God is here with us in compassionate love. I keep returning to the Psalms for guidance, especially Psalm 23, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”

As a council, we try to navigate these unchartered waters with guidance from so many; CDC, local government officials, our own wellness nurses, our finance office, our human resources office, all department leaders, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and other religious congregations who are riding these same waters of uncertainty. We are most grateful for all the prayers from the sisters for the provincial council and for the world. We believe that God is guiding us as we make important decisions, especially for the coming days and months. We know we need to look at rescheduling important celebrations including memorial masses, Jubilees and province days, to name a few. Our lives have been changed forever, our sense of normal has not yet emerged, but the strength of God’s love and our sense of caring for each other is evident.

In between all the demands for our attention around COVID-19, we try to pay attention to other needs in the province. In the midst of our work, I see pop-up books on my bookcase. Each page has to be opened slowly for the design to emerge completely. The key word is slowly. Pieces of the folding and unfolding for each campus are slowly beginning to emerge. One unfolding is the new construction of the senior living center in Milwaukee at Mount Mary University for the sisters currently living at Notre Dame of Elm Grove, Elm Grove, Wisconsin. The new facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021 barring any rain delays, material shortages or shortages of workers. A group of sisters had an initial conversation about important SSND historical art pieces we hope to display in the new building. At times, these conversations seem unreal, but it also gives a sense of hope. Another page that is unfolding, is the closing of Maria Center at the Sancta Maria in Ripa Campus in St. Louis. Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mankato, Minnesota, continues to gather information to best serve the needs of the sisters. St. Mary of the Pines, in Chatawa, Mississippi, is nearly complete as we wait for the final four sisters to move to Trinity Trace Community Care Center in Covington, Louisiana. Each campus is at a different stage. We wait patiently for each next step, the next unfolding.

As the provincial council, we continue to be grateful for everyone who contributed their talents, time and prayer to help us live through the experience of the past weeks and months with COVID-19. We are still living with restrictions and wondering when we will be able to “ease up a bit.” We need each other more than ever. All of us have made sacrifices both big and small to keep others safe. May we continue to realize how our individual actions contribute to the health and safety of others. May we continue to live out the Gospel message of Jesus, to love others and all creation, no matter the cost or personal inconvenience. I close with my favorite quote from Blessed Theresa,

"..the heart forms itself according to what it loves.” ~ Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger

School Sisters of Notre Dame

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Phone: 314-561-4100



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