As the first of the Covid vaccines roll out, we feel relief, hope and a strong desire to return to the normalcy of the lives we left behind early last year.
We may still be masked and social distancing, but we are feeling a little lighter these days.
Sister Michelle Woodruff, a public health nurse in Crownpoint, N.M., serves the Navajo. The vaccine is the “beginning of the end to the suffering and fear of the people of our communities and my co-workers,” she said.
“My co-workers and I are the epidemiology response team for our hospital and it has meant long days, difficult work being on the phone (no in-person visits), and lots of talking to individuals and families affected daily by Covid. The weight and stress has been enormous. But the epidemiology team has encouraged and strengthened each other through these rough days.
“We are vaccine believers for sure.”
Sister Michelle says she is keenly aware that the federal government’s history of broken promises to native people has sown seeds of distrust of this vaccine.
She and her mostly Native American epidemiology teammates try to dispel the falsehoods proliferating on the Internet, and instead describe the risks and benefits of the vaccine. They reinforce the need to continue mask-wearing, hand-washing and social-distancing until we emerge from the pandemic.
Sister Regina Siegfried, a writer, historian and archivist, also is a longtime volunteer with refugees and homeless people in St. Louis. She and her fellow volunteers have continued their important work during the pandemic but have had to devise creative ways to serve.
She said she hopes that homeless people and others with limited means can be vaccinated. “The virus ignores economic, social, and racial markers,” she said. “I hope the vaccine is distributed on an equal basis for all who want it and that people are educated about its value.”
Sister Barbara Jean Franklin has been working to keep the virus out of the Ruma Center where many of our sisters live and employees work.
On a recent morning, standing among co-workers in a socially distanced line waiting for the weekly Covid test, she reflected on the gift that, unlike Covid, is visible, the people among whom she works.
She describes how they waited, encouraging each other: a maintenance man, nurses, the grounds person, the administrative assistant, a housekeeper, and one of the people who was preparing lunch.
“It gave me a sense of what it meant for the ordinary people as they awaited deliverance, the Messiah,” she said. “When the word about the vaccine came, our hope was renewed.
“Soon we will be in a new line, cheering each other on as we receive the vaccine! And the wonder of it all is that in both lines I experience the Incarnation—God, the Word, is among us.”
Sister Kristen Forgotch says she is filled with hope knowing that a vaccine is coming soon for teachers like her and older adults like those in her community.
She takes special measures – and goes through a lot of masks – ensuring that she doesn’t contract the virus and spread it to her young pupils and community members.
She is the designated shopper for everything the community needs. It’s not safe for older sisters to risk exposure to the virus. That stress has also helped her reflect on her community sisters’ inability to run a simple errand and enjoy a conversation with a stranger at the store.
Knowing that the vaccine is within reach has helped her find her spark for teaching.
“The vaccine provides great hope to me and the others who I have been blessed to interact with on a daily basis,” she said.
For current information on Covid-19 and vaccination, please visit cdc.gov →