Coping with the coronavirus as individuals and communities

By Sister Karlyn Cauley, SDS

No one could know that the Lenten journey this year would take us into a very real wilderness. Right now there is self-quarantine for nearly all activities where I live in an apartment building for 60 elderly African Americans. It is in the midst of an impoverished neighborhood in the central city of Milwaukee, WI. I have seen the qualities of resilience and care for others while the residents are unable to grocery shop, have family contact or enjoy benefits of those in better circumstances. Their dispositions show me God’s face in these challenges that are not easily met. I keep the “social distance” required but also have lent food, written e-mails to their families, kept some inspiration between us. I became “one among them” as I now use a cane for the coming hip replacement surgery that I hope will happen.

What is prayer during this time? I reflect on scriptural wilderness and have heard the residents’ strong belief as Baptist Christians in the importance of the Exodus on their behalf. The self-quarantine is a form of imprisonment for the sake of the whole community and I am absorbing their deep belief in God’s Providence no matter what happens.  Those with whom I am living feel they are “borne up” on eagle’s wings and that image helps me a great deal. There also is faithfulness to one another during this time and it makes real for me the “God-with-us” in the name Emmanuel.

I also see my prayer in the e-mails I send to our older sisters who are quarantined in their small bedrooms, and e-mails to friends to tell them I am doing fairly well and hoping they are remaining healthy. I had an opportunity to have an hour of spiritual direction using Facebook technology, a very new technology for me. Seeing the face of my director was very satisfying to me and I was grateful for this sharing.

Our community of about 58 members in the United States is sending messages of hope and care through technology. However, Sisters of the Divine Savior is an international Congregation, and our leadership members have been unable to re-enter Italy to return to our Motherhouse in Rome. Our prayer is that none of our sisters suffer a crisis during this period. It is a suffering for international congregations. At this time we do not yet have sisters with the coronavirus, which is a blessing.

What are the plans for Holy Week? We will be live-streaming the Holy week services on TV and our laptops. We will sing our solos for familiar hymns, and we are sure we are in unity and communion across the distances. Everything in our lives and mission has prepared us for this time, have formed us to be followers on the way to Jerusalem and to resurrection.  It is a stunning reality for Holy Week in 2020 and will not be forgotten. The lessons of this time will continue to be revealed!

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