by Sister Kati Hamm

In the United States, 14 months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, 423 days after wearing masks became public policy, the CDC issued a statement that the wearing of masks outdoors and indoors was no longer necessary. With that most visible sign of recovery, we in NY, are on our way to “normal.”  We now see faces looking up, looking at, looking out. Faces invite us again to encounter, to share sentiments, and express feelings too long kept to ourselves.  How serendipitous that this new lightness comes along with spring and the anticipation of newness and more life and light of summer.

To say that nothing has changed by our 14-month lockdown would be wrong. Because in the midst of this “interruption” we learned to value what we had taken for granted, we learned to sacrifice for the common good, to appreciate essential workers and we learned to make the best of challenging situations. There is for many, a different quality of appreciation, of paying attention, of reflection on the directions of the Spirit movements within us.

This month’s edition of Charity Alive invites us to consider how life is emerging in us as we see light at the end of the COVID 19 tunnel. Wherever we find ourselves, in whatever circumstances, encounter and transformation are always possibilities.

Pandemic or not, people continue to grieve over-diagnoses of a serious disease, the loss of friends or family members, recognition of new limits as well as to rejoice in the new births, graduations, weddings, jubilees, transitions and other milestones of life’s journey. When the pandemic is over, we will have been part of a shared experience that could colour our world for decades to come. Emerging transformed depends on if we are open to recognize a new time and act out of a new consciousness.

Transformation Happens

By Sister Maureen Wild

Hydrogen and oxygen – two gases – bond together and become a liquid that makes up over 70% of us. Transformation!  Now, who could ever have imagined this probability?!  Even the cells in our brains that ignite our imagination depend on water!  Water = Life.

When we least expect it, worldviews entrenched in us like firmness of rock can begin to erode, soften and amend into enriching soils with more conscious potential for loving our world. I know. It happened to me.  Often times this transformation takes time and patience, but sometimes it comes as flashes of enlightenment and we can’t look back, only forward to discover more, lured by God’s transformational energy now living within us, awaiting deeper discovery.

My garden goes through myriad transformations, birds, bugs, wind and worms all helping the process along.  Surprises show up as ‘voluntary’ … but who scattered the parsley seed, the nasturtiums, the Swiss chard, the amazing deep-dark purple poppies, the chamomile and the kale?  Not me!  A gardener knows that a garden is never complete or reaching some kind of apex of fulfilment.  It just keeps giving.  I offered neighbours ten big bags of beautiful lush parsley (overrunning my garden as ‘volunteers,’ I needed the space to plant other things).  Those who wished offered back donations for hungry children here or in other lands – a simple thing like parsley transformed into generosity and compassion.  A garden just keeps responding to what happens; it can’t help being bountiful, offering its hidden potential for untold transformation.

In speaking of the church we love, Pope John XXIII said that “We are not here to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.”  (A great metaphor and I suspect he may have known something about Italian gardens!)  As Sisters and Associates – and as expressions of life in our church – what does it mean to cultivate growth in our unique ‘patch’ in this global, flourishing garden of life?  What new and diverse life (perhaps that we hadn’t expected) is popping-up to be noticed, accepted, fostered, encouraged and enriched? Might God have something to do with this gift – a gift that longs to be transformed into even more inclusive acts of love?  I enjoy a museum. But I totally love a garden!

From Nova Scotia: The Power of Prayer 

by Sister Pat Wilson

Prayer, whether private or in community, is personal and common; it is deeply one and shared among many. The residents at Caritas as people of faith, come with a personal relationship with God and a prayer connection to the community of God’s people. Each person’s form of prayer gives insight into the call of God, whose love is never-ending. At best, the prayer experience enhances life and gives the courage and insight that leads the ‘pray-er’ to places never thought of or expected. In hard times, prayer offers the strength to look deeply into challenges and unimaginable circumstances to find hope and courage.   

Over the past year, the whole world has journeyed through a time of unbelievable challenge. This pandemic has touched the world community at its core. While responses varied, all of us were called to look at life in new ways and to respond not just individually, but to act from the perspective of the common good. For over a year, we have faced fear and a real sense of not knowing what to do with the inability to make plans, to travel anywhere or to eat with whomever we wished. We, sometimes reluctantly, were forced to grapple with acting out of “my need” and “our need” in making daily choices.

In the midst of it all was how we lived from our rootedness in faith and the nourishment of our prayer.

We’ve survived three “lockdowns” and many changes to daily living. Bit by bit restrictions are lifting and things are becoming ‘normal’.  A question arises: While adjusting to the many months of pandemic living, how have our praying and faith perspectives changed?  The following insights are pieces of reflections from Sisters at Caritas.

Private prayer continued in basic patterns, but “expanded to embrace the world’s needs and more specific mentioning of the heartache of people.” … “I think the pandemic has stretched my prayer without changing its style very much. What COVID-19 has done is to expand the scope and variety of the day’s/  world’s news and needs which I can invite to sit with me for blessing. In the wake of so much suffering, loss and grief, I have been moved to add another period of prayer to my day. I decided to pray for [people] one by one and by name.”

“I feel a change in my prayer….peaceful, meaningful, appreciation, NOT reciting, but meditating.”… “Great time to learn patience.  More time to pray differently. Beautiful pictures help me.”… “Though the lockdown gives me more time, I find it difficult to enter into prayer.  Like the old man at Ars, I look at him, and he looks at me”…” The not-knowing-if-this-will-ever-end takes its toll. I continue to have an abiding sense of God-with-us, not God-punishing-us, which is helpful!”  

Community prayer changed in more radical ways. Because of a number of pandemic restrictions, we have often been without the Mass or unable to gather for prayer in our small communities.  At those times, we moved to watching on TV.  This satisfied for a while and some people came to new insights. “

At the beginning of our isolation and inability to come together, I appreciated and liked ‘attending’ live, and in some instances even recorded liturgies and services….  As time passed I realized …that there was something essential missing, i.e. the bodily presence of the gathered community: persons I know and rub elbows with every day… I appreciate more our regular gathering for prayer in our local community.”…” Sunday I use my Tablet and travel around the world watching the Sunday Liturgy from any number of places”… “With the shutdown of Mass in (from) our own chapel, I have felt a deep longing for this to be restored as soon as possible.”

It seems that our prayer has deepened in this time.  We see what is important for us; we hear the world’s pain and embrace those we hear about within our prayer. Many long to celebrate the family meal – the Eucharist – with each other, in person.  May we continue to listen to the world, our companions and the pain of others … and find a place in our prayer for it all.

From Caritas

One is never closer to God than in a garden.

From Massachusetts: Spring Renewal

by Sister Mary Sweeney

(With apologies to S. Martha Loo and the Vicentinas who are now preparing to face winter in the Southern Hemisphere.)

As we marked the anniversary of the imposition of pandemic restrictions in Massachusetts, we were entering spring. We had lived through a year of challenges, social distancing, mask-wearing, vigilance, feelings of isolation, and the daily updates on COVID-19  related cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. It was a strange phase of life, one that no one could have imagined, one that revealed our strengths and our vulnerabilities.

Have we ever needed to see signs of spring so much as we did this year? This year there was a yearning to find beauty in the new life that was once again breaking through the remains of winter and the scars of life in time of pandemic.

To see new life emerging, whether in Sister Joanne Kmiec’s work as she prepared her gardens at the back of the building, or in the array of flowers planted and tended by associate John Fortini at the entrance, or in the flowering trees on the property and the goslings on nearby Longfellow Pond: all provided much-needed morale boosters after a challenging winter. All reminded us of the blessing of spring and the renewal it brings.

The sun rose earlier and set later, and the extra light and warmth provided more and better opportunities to be outdoors, to inhale fresh air (mostly through masks) and to enjoy the reminder that from the limitations on life imposed by the pandemic. There could still be a “renewal of spirit” that lifts residents, employees, and friends, just as Easter does: from the death and darkness of the tomb, something new happens:  light and life. And although there were no Easter liturgies in the chapel, the soul-saving truth was being manifested in nature and in the revival that spring provided.

As spring continued to unfold, and as vaccinations became available, other aspects of life have re-emerged – not to what they were, pre-pandemic, but to different modes of being together and of celebrating together that are appropriate for where we are now.

Sisters are now eating in the dining room, a welcomed change. During the height of the pandemic, sisters were eating alone in their rooms. This went on for weeks and created a situation that Sister Anne Power described  as “isolating and lonely.” Now, although seating at each table is limited, the experience provides opportunities to interact and to feel the connections of community.  In considering  this return to dining together, S. Anne spoke of the importance of “being part of a conversation, of talking and listening, of being part of life again after being separated for so long.”

Gathering together in chapel for Eucharistic liturgies has also found a new mode. The absence of liturgy for more than a year would have been unthinkable, but Sisters grew to appreciate the ability to tune in to televised liturgies from various places. Now liturgy is celebrated twice a week, but there are no guests in order that the Sisters may keep a safe distance from one another. In speaking about the absence of liturgy for more than a year, Sister Mary Harrington described the experience as a sacrifice, even as she recognized the wisdom of the decision. “Eucharist is such a big part of our lives.” Now that it has been restored twice a week, she is “thrilled” – a sentiment that I suspect many Sisters would recognize.

Through all the challenges of the past fifteen months, Sisters have expressed their gratitude that they were well cared for by those who work at Mt. St. Vincent. Sister Judith, Lori Ferrante, and the staff have carried a heavy responsibility, and as new life emerges, we can all be grateful for their work and for the renewal of life that spring brings.

From New York: Resilience 

By the Sisters of Resurrection Ascension Community

What a year!  The COVID-19 pandemic broke upon the world in November of 2019 and things have not been the same since.   Who could have imagined that a pandemic would paralyze the globe and touch each of us so dramatically?    For the past year, the operative words have been – masking, distance, and hand washing.   That moved into, “what vaccine did you get”?  “Did you have any reactions”?    “When can we visit in person”? 

As serious as these questions were and are, another which touched all of us whose lives revolve around service, was “what were we to do in a world circumscribed by our homes”?    What follows is not unique or dramatic but represents what everyone has tried to do this past year.  All of us have reached deep, connected and collaborated with others, and found ways to be of service.

Resurrection Ascension Community is located in Queens, New York City.  Like the rest of our city, we were experiencing a serious lockdown.   We were also expanding our local community by two people.  The actual move was the first challenge.  Looking back the worries seem ridiculous now but nonetheless real at the time.  How do they get their things here?  Whom do we hire?  Movers, going in and out of other peoples’ homes, might be carriers of the virus.  It all worked out though, and 5 of us settled in to form a new community.   For months being 24/7 in each other’s company accelerated the “getting to know you” phase of this new community. 

So now what?  One of Vincent de Paul’s maxims is “do what is before you”.  Once the shutdown was in place, each of us had to figure out what that meant for us. RA Parish was right before us. Interestingly, pre-pandemic none of us had recently worked in a parish.   Suddenly, it became the main arena of our action.    

Past learnings served us well.  Over the previous two years, our computer skills had been honed as we Zoomed into Congregational business: Assemblies, chat rooms, and Chapter.  These skills were easily transferable to live streaming daily Eucharist from the convent chapel. Once the church opened, we continued that service, expanding it to include funerals, RCIA welcome rites, and other parish events.  At a time of isolation and disconnection, through technology, the RA parish was able to stay connected.  Many parishioners were hesitant either to come to the church or, if there, be liturgical ministers.   Being a lector or Eucharistic Minister, filling in for reluctant parishioners, was easy.  In time, other opportunities presented themselves: opening the food pantry, being part of a telephone outreach, making vaccine appointments and transporting some.  We had all become full-blown parish ministers!  Who would have imagined!  Folks are grateful for our being part of steadying the parish at this very challenging time.  The growing sense of “my people, my community” is its own gift, a secondary benefit for trying to be helpful. 

With the lifting of restrictions in NYC, we continue to be a presence at RA and also have been able to reconnect with previous ministries: St. John’s Bread and Life food kitchen, tutoring, doing house accounts, etc.  Even these are not exactly as before.  Contact with people is still limited and the work maybe not as satisfying.  However, we “do what is before us (you)”, trusting that the measure is not the “what” but the “who”.

More Charity Alive – June 2021


This month’s edition of Charity Alive invites us to consider how life is emerging in us as we see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

Matthew 25 Moment

All those hungry, thirsty, wounded, bare, lonely, imprisoned hands ... the hands of God that reached out, touched and held my hands on one simple summer afternoon.

Charity Alive – April 2021

From Violent to Violet – a Way to Protest

Sister Cathy sews squares for the Violet Protest -- a project that aims to let American congressmen and congresswomen know that so many people support the core values of compassion, compromise, and country over corporate influence. 

From the Archives

Inspiring Sister -- Sister Mary Emmanuel Sullivan, whose decades of work have laid a valuable foundation for Sisters of Charity – Halifax Congregational Archives. 

2021-06-18T13:08:51+00:00By |Comments Off on Emerging
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