By Sister Gabrielle Rowe, ASC
A year and a half ago, another sister and I developed a ministry program for the sisters at our Ruma convent that focused on our common experiences of loss and grief. Every five or six weeks, a small group of sisters comes together to share feelings and insights on a topic related to personal or communal loss, for example, at the death of a member of the Ruma local community.
Recently, the group spent some time reflecting on how the Covid pandemic has affected our lives and our spirits, considering both the challenges and the blessings it has presented. We did not want to lose the wisdom we had gained from this long and painful experience concerning new ways of acting and being together in community.
First mentioned among the challenges was the loss of physical contact with the larger community of Adorers, with family and friends, and the sense of isolation that pressed heavily upon our spirits. It also has been difficult to accept the loss of ministry outreach opportunities. Yet, these very losses brought us the blessing of discovering new and creative ways of connecting. We developed a fuller appreciation of the telephone, the postage stamp, the Zoom screen and dinner table conversation.
The sense of helplessness we experienced as day after day we witnessed in the news the rising death toll and the acute fears and sufferings of people everywhere in the world led us to broaden the focus of our common and private prayer to include specifically Covid victims, their loved ones, and their caretakers across the world. We responded with increased awareness of each other’s sufferings right here in community and among sisters and friends across the country by more frequent phone calls and rounds of cheerful notes sent out.
Loss of the Eucharistic celebration in our chapel was an added deprivation. Then we began livestreaming Masses and discovered the gift of a variety of homilists who expanded our understanding of the daily scriptures. We even developed favorites – Sunday at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis, and Friday at Loretto Chapel in Canada.
We closed our sharing with prayers of thanksgiving for God’s grace-filled actions in our lives during these past 18 months of grief and isolation, actions bringing both challenges and blessings. We move on now as we integrate these new learnings into our life together.