This story originally appeared in the November 6th e-edition of The Circuit.
The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery have been in lockdown since March and both the monastery and the college have felt this separation keenly.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sisters’ primary concern was for those who were most vulnerable in their community living in Dooley Center, the monastery’s nursing facility.
Only one sister has tested positive and recovered from the virus. However, some of the staff, such as nurses and kitchen workers, have become infected since March, causing stricter quarantines and precautions for the sisters.
Sister Carol Ann Petersen, the director of the Sophia Spirituality Center, has acted as the extern for the monastery since March.
“One of my jobs is the extern sister. The sister that does all of the errands for the community and individual sisters. The extern sister lives alone, and I have my meals brought to me,” Petersen said.
The separation between the college and the monastery has also made it impossible for Benedictine students to volunteer at the Mount. Normally, students would help the sisters with different manual tasks such as gardening and cleaning.
“We miss having the help and seeing the college students very much,” Petersen said.
Since the pandemic hit, the sisters have had to improvise to continue their outreach to the students. The sisters have embraced virtual formats to continue to foster the prayerful community that is so vital to Benedictine spirituality.
Sister Susan Barber, the monastery’s community liturgist, encourages students to pray with the sisters virtually.
“We do compline live on Wednesday nights as a way to extend our prayer to the students at Benedictine College,” Barber said.
This live–streamed compline, as well as different spiritual retreats, can be accessed through the Sophia Spirituality Center Facebook page. [hyperlink could go here]
The sisters at the monastery sympathize with the students who are struggling both mentally and spiritually with this pandemic and offer a word of advice.
“Take advantage of the sacraments and focus on gratitude. We are having to make sacrifices, but we have so much to be grateful for. There is no greater prayer than gratitude, gratitude is the recognition that everything comes from God,” Petersen said.
For information regarding prayer, spiritual direction, or retreats, please visit the Sophia Spirituality Center website and Facebook page.