As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward with hope and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the minimal impact this global health crisis has had on the RSHM community in Marymount Convent.
While 12 RSHM sisters contracted the virus, none had to be hospitalized, and none succumbed to it. Other religious communities across the country were less fortunate, experiencing higher infection rates and many lives lost.
How were we so blessed? We only have to look to our dedicated staff for the answer. Prior to “New York on Pause” in March 2020, Karen Seery, RN, Director of Nursing/Coordinator of Health Care Services strategized with Sr. Margaret Hoyne, Convent Coordinator, and the Area leadership. The team decided that the sisters would remain on campus, leaving the convent only when medically necessary; volunteers and visitors were not permitted; and, Mass attendance was limited to sisters only. Eventually, Mass was replaced with daily communion service to further reduce the sisters’ exposure to non-residents.
When the first sister was diagnosed with COVID-19 right before Easter 2020, immediate action was taken. Group activities ceased and sisters were instructed to return to their rooms. Sodexo Food Service staff immediately pivoted, creating boxed meals for the sisters to pick-up and take back to their rooms. A few days later, as several sisters became ill, the convent fully locked-down. With all sisters confined to their rooms for approximately five weeks, more than 65 meals had to be delivered three times daily. “Everyone pitched in – they were wonderful. They all absolutely went above and beyond,” said Sr. Margaret. “Nursing staff, housekeeping, food service, Marianne Walsh and Susannah Alao from Life Enrichment, and Donna Ruperto – all put in extra hours, including on their days and weekends off.”
By late spring, Karen Seery eased some restrictions, beginning with community dining. The auditorium served as an additional dining facility to ensure social distancing. Initially, sisters gathered for one meal daily, gradually expanding to all meals. As restrictions lifted in Westchester County, some sisters ventured out locally – always following safety protocols. Priests were invited back to celebrate Mass, but sisters could opt to attend virtually. When necessary, Mass would be suspended and communion services reinstituted based on the overall health of the sisters in the convent. “We have to give Karen a lot of the credit for being on top of the situation at all times, keeping us safe,” said Sr. Margaret.
As the virus surged again in the fall and early winter, family visits for Thanksgiving and Christmas were ruled out. However, the New Year brought good news for the community with all the sisters receiving their first vaccination at the end of January 2021, and their second on February 28. Happily, now that all have been vaccinated, the sisters have returned to full community. They have returned to one dining room, can leave the convent for shopping and excursions, and have welcomed back volunteers and visitors. They look forward to seeing sisters from across the Area as they all gather in Tarrytown for the Convocation this July. The sisters, like everyone else, appreciate the return to normalcy. Reflecting on this experience, Sr. Margaret was not surprised that the staff rose to the occasion.
“They are truly dedicated and always come through,” said Sr. Margaret. “They have always looked out for the best interests of the sisters.”