Wisconsin Religious Collaborative Blog: Better Together: Sharing Our Journey
The Ladysmith Servite Sisters have found a new way of being community during the coronavirus lockdown. Each Monday afternoon at 3:00 o’clock the Sisters log in to Zoom for an hour of sharing news, coping tips, laughter, and prayer.
I invited the Sisters to the first such gathering on March 23. I wasn’t sure how many would – or even could – show up, since most had never used Zoom before. To my delight, more than half the community logged in, and each week a few more Sisters join. Some gather around the same computer, others participate singly, and a few join by phone.
During the first call Sister Cecilia filled us in on the condition of Sister Mary John, our oldest member at age 101, who was in hospice care. That evening Sister Mary John went home to God. At the next Zoom gathering, we heard from our Sisters in Ladysmith about the private graveside service they held for Mary John. Sadly, we also heard about the final days of our next oldest member, Sister Mary Lucy, age 95. While Zoom could not replace the experience of the community coming together to celebrate their lives, it was comforting to be able to share the stories of their passing and our memories of their time with us.
A little later into the call someone said, “Sister Margaret, tell us a joke.” Margaret didn’t skip a beat. “Did you hear the one about the germ?” she asked. “Never mind, I don’t want to spread it around.”
Sister Dominica told of her neighbors, who stop in from time to time – keeping their distance, of course – asking if she needs anything. Sister Kateri told us, “I’m not bored. I have to be doing something for someone. I made 72 Easter cards for the kids in school.” And Sister Ann Marie announced that she had picked up the guitar for the first time in six years.
Now, after four Zoom calls, the Sisters have become comfortable with the new technology. The conversation at these weekly meetings flows back and forth, with the ease of a friendly living room gathering. It’s a wonderful way of staying together while staying apart.
Throughout history, difficult circumstances have led to creativity and development. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were not convinced that remote work was feasible, but now thousands, if not millions, of people are working remotely and doing so successfully. Before, telehealth was just emerging and not seen as an everyday option; today, telehealth is emerging as a frontline solution. Factories throughout the world are retooling to address healthcare-related needs, restaurants are redesigning service models to provide meals to customers in a safe way, and teachers and parents are diving deep into their imaginations to create new and entertaining ways to engage with children.
What is happening now with the pandemic in a way mirrors the disruption seen in the world of women religious. Times are changing. Internal and external forces are affecting the future that was expected by the women religious who took their vows years ago. These women now have the opportunity to create their own, new future.
Remote communication that is required today can be used to facilitate enrichment and ongoing formation tomorrow. Efficiencies needed now in this new economy can lead to streamlined and effective processes and partnerships in the future. Personal and intimate leadership desired now can drive behaviors around the necessary change management we all will face in times to come.
This is our time to unite and collaborate, to see ourselves stronger, to work even harder to forge new paths and create a new future for us all. To help us come together, the Wisconsin Religious Collaborative invited members of our religious communities to share their inspirational readings. Please check out these recommendations at https://www.wrcollaborative.org/resources/ongoing-formation.cfm and share your recommendations as well (send to Lyn@WRCollaborative.org). Together, we can find strength, support, and inspiration for these challenging times and into the future.