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A message from the OLVM Sisters on the coronavirus pandemic

From Sister Mary Jo Nelson


Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters

I begin this message with a section from a poem by the Somalian poet, Warsan Shire

called “what they did yesterday afternoon.”

…later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered

everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.

Our world is hurting everywhere. We know stories of sorrow, desperation, depression, and fear from nearby and far away. Every day, the news gives us more stories of the spread and devastation of the coronavirus. Everyone’s life is changing. Events and activities are cancelled, the places that distract us and move us into another world, at least for a little while, are closed, and the Eucharistic liturgy is cancelled everywhere. This crisis has landed on the doorstep of all our lives without invitation.

And, for us a Victory Noll Community, Sisters and Associates, we are called into a Lent we did not see coming. We are called into a prayer where we allow ourselves to be wounded by those living in isolated places without health care, the fragility of the homeless and near homeless, those in prison, service providers who risk their own health, and those who have no one to serve. This pandemic leaves us uncertain about our future on many levels. Uncertainty is one of the most difficult experiences, because it means not having control over what might happen to us. With this new reality. I am inviting every Sister and Associate to consciously take on the ministry of prayer for our world, and to be a sign of solidarity with our world. To begin our communal efforts, the International Union of Superiors General has called upon women religious throughout the planet to spend Sunday, March 22 as a Day of Worldwide Solidarity and Prayer. I hope we can all join together with our global Sisterhood.

Isolation and sheltering in place is not easy, yet it is essential that we follow all the directives from our civil and ecclesial leaders at this time. So, I am wondering if we could also take on the ministry of “connecting with others” in a more conscious way—use technology to connect with friends, family, colleagues, Sisters, Associates, and those in special need—they need it and we need it.

On a more personal note, we are experiencing the effects of the pandemic as we simplify and make alternative plans for our Chapter, which is the full community meeting we hold every four years. We had planned for a beautiful experience, wonderful liturgies and prayer, and experiences for all of us to join in on. This is not to be. We are down to the essentials and what we absolutely need to do. I again ask all of us to pray for our Chapter and our delegates. We need a big dose of patience as we have chapter with half of the delegates on ZOOM. As you know we are not yet experts in meeting by ZOOM.

Thank you for all you are, and what you are doing to be Sister and Brother for others during this pandemic time. In closing, I offer you this poem by Rumi for our journey.

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Your sister,

Sr. Mary Jo Nelson, OLVM

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