Some FCJ sisters and communities tell us how they are spending their lockdown days, their community life and their ministry.
Terry, fcJ, Calgary, Canada
What is my ministry in COVID-19 times? To be a Faithful Companion of Jesus is the answer. Practically, that means serving where I have been asked to serve. March 12 was my last day at Fr. Lacombe High School where I have been volunteering for the last eight years or so. The students and teachers were together until the next day. The teachers from the Diverse Learning Centre got together by Zoom on April 28 for a virtual soup day. We had generally been having soup together every second Tuesday. Three teachers at a time prepared delicious soups at home and brought them in crock pots. While we are unable to be in the school at present, I keep the students and all the staff in prayer.
As archivist for the Area of the Americas of the FCJ Society, I have a challenge ahead. A new AC unit has been installed this last week of April and it was necessary to remove boxes galore from four sets of shelves to make room for the work. I hope to sort through several items and have order re-established eventually.
Reaching out to friends and family seems to be a large part of caring for others as we live through the pandemic. I am grateful for email and telephone especially. A friend from our days in New Hazleton, a former FCJ novice with whom I had lived in Rhode Island, a dear elderly friend whom I tried to visit or phone all died in the last month. Rita would have turned 92 on April 29 but the corona virus caused her death. It is such a gift how we are connected to countless people! Two different people called me from British Columbia to inform me of Gabriele’s death. His wife and daughters were consoled by the priest having anointed Gabriele in the sunshine while the birds were singing. No one was permitted into the hospital except the immediate family, so the nurses rolled Gabriele outdoors. Another family from BC who was close to us in Smithers is grateful for prayers as Tim is suffering from cancer. His wife put the phone on “speaker” so that I could talk to him while he was in bed.
The enforced days of quiet have provided many enjoyable and enriching times for us as community. Although the big events we had planned for our bicentennial had to be cancelled or postponed, celebrating March 30, April 5 and Holy Thursday together was very special. In addition to those days, we had the fun of speaking with FCJs in Myanmar, Laurel Hill Court and Toronto via Skype which Sr. Agnes Samosir arranged for us. As a group we go outside our front door each evening to ring bells and generally make noise to thank all frontline workers.
COVID-19 has brought many blessings but we still reach out. One gift here in Alberta is that we are encouraged to go for walks, while keeping the distance of 2 metres from others. I appreciate the smiles from those I pass and several share greetings. May we continue to find God in all things.
FCJ Community in Somers Town, London
We here in Somers Town, home of FCJ Spirituality Centre Somers Town, have been finding various ways of keeping our hands and hearts in ministry during lockdown, which is now on its 7th week. Creativity and ‘stick to it’ energy have been the tools most used. From sorting the entire library, to sorting the community CD and lyrics library for prayer; we have rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in. Cleaning and sorting of other nooks and crannies has also been happening.
We each try to ‘be at’ mass every day whether in Scotland, Middlesbrough, Rome or Exeter; we unite with the faithful throughout the world in this opportunity of virtual Eucharistic experience.
We are reminded, through our perpetually lit candle in Chapel, to remember all those whose lives have been drastically changed by this pandemic.
Every Thursday night at 8pm we unite with a grateful nation with our pots, pans, wooden spoons and hands to make a joyful noise unto the Lord in support our frontline workers.
Our more outward looking activities include: accompanying people on 19th Annotation retreats (the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius) and monthly spiritual accompaniment. Each of us have had spiritual conversations via Zoom or WhatsApp with friends and family near and far. We have companioned frontline workers as they face the arduous task of fighting to keep patients alive during this pandemic. We’ve also walked with family members and friends who have been directly touched by this sickness or who have lost loved ones recently.
During lockdown the sisters have put the sewing machine to good use, making masks for vulnerable women on the street or in hostels in London, clients at a Centre in which one of the sisters volunteers. The top image shows Sr Bernie with the masks and sewing machine.
We continue to reach out to women who are considering religious life, and we are in contact with our Companions in Mission throughout the world. Liaising with our schools and their heads is still an important part of our ministry. The work of Trusteeship and governance responsibilities does not stop even though the schools are closed. Providing reflections for websites and prayerful support are just a couple of the ways we can help.
The use of technology has surely been a gift which has made continuing ministry possible. There are so many people who find the lack of contact with others at this time extremely difficult. So when possible phone calls are made, emails are sent and texts messages are sprinkled into the internet hoping to lend some support and spread some joy.
We’ve also enjoyed longer evening prayers and leisurely dinners… Watching Spring come alive, in a much quieter London, has been balm for the soul.
We’ve also enjoyed longer evening prayers and leisurely dinners. Cooking and learning new recipes has been a new-found joy for some of us… Table tennis, netball, walking, ‘hoopla-hooping’ and stair climbing have become a daily routine for most of us. Watching Spring come alive, in a much quieter London, has been balm for the soul.
Sacred Heart Convent, Calgary, Canada
At Sacred Heart Convent in Calgary, we are nine sisters. Both the size and the vulnerabilities of our group have certainly contributed to the number of ministries and activities that are marking this time of COVID-19 lockdown.
In the midst of inactivity, we are plenty engaged! Some of these activities are long-standing and have been modified to meet current standards and needs; others are new. The FCJ Retreat and Conference Centre, which runs in the same building as the convent and where some of us work, is closed. Those who have directees or counselling clients, retreats, or courses are using Zoom or Skype, depending on the need. Some of the workers (cooks, cleaners, handymen) work limited hours and we are very grateful for their care (see top image). Our nurses continue to work daily and their contribution to our lives cannot be over-emphasized.
An atmosphere of prayer pervades the house; each of us and all of us together are praying non-stop for the dead and dying; for their families; for the sick and those who care for them; for the workers who keep essential services open; for parents and teachers who are working to provide quality educational experiences for children at home; for the researchers who are working on treatments and vaccines, and for the political leaders at all levels who are trying to respond in supportive ways to all those who cannot work at this time.
Each day of the week, one of us phones each of the sisters living off-site in care homes. We also use Facetime to communicate with those who are able. Sr Agnes has arranged Skype calls with other FCJ communities around the world. Everyone loves this chance to be in contact with our sisters far away. We have incorporated chair exercises, a sing along… We had a rousing, engaging afternoon of bingo one Friday, with chocolate bars as the prizes. Everyone participated. We have since found two other board games suitable for community playing, and anticipation is running high!
Every day at 7pm we celebrate the front-line workers by ringing bells as loudly as we can from the front entrance of the Convent. The Diocese of Calgary has a campaign to thank people who have continued to work during this risky time. A poster that shows a heart and says, Thank you for having the heart of Jesus is posted on our entrance doors, the gates, the display case of the FCJ Centre, and the signage that shows a drawing of Sacred Heart and the FCJ Centre. The campaign included postcards, which we have sent to the care homes where our Sisters live, to the first responders (police and firefighters), to the people who deliver the mail and newspaper, and to others who serve us.