Growing where planted
Throughout the world, COVID-19 is driving people apart. But at the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s, the pandemic created an opportunity for connection and community. Unable to travel to their first missions worldwide after making initial professions on May 30, 2020, Sisters Shikha Tripura, Ahati Christina Tripura, Agnes Atugonza, Christina Esi Aidoo, Rumi Pathang, Anna Maria Roy, Piasy Rita Costa, Chidary Sku and Sengme Rangsa Marak took up temporary residence on campus in the new community, Solitude Solidarity.
Joining them, and taking responsibility for their ongoing formation, were Sisters Edith Tumuhimbise, Evelyn Ntiamoah and Runu Mrong. The three sisters, who had been engaged in formation and pastoral studies courses at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, Illinois, began living and e-learning from Saint Mary’s in March. Though they had completed their studies, they also were restricted from returning home. Together, the 12 sisters made up the community.
The unexpected circumstance, says Sister Mary Tiernan, CSC, a general councilor for the general administration of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, “resulted in a graced opportunity for the formators to apply their experiences and knowledge from CTU, and for the newly professed sisters to deepen their experience of and reflection on transition, ministry and intercultural living.”
Adapting and making the most of their situation, the 12 sisters, who are from Uganda, Bangladesh, Ghana and India, ministered at Saint Mary’s by serving as health screeners, visiting with sisters in the convent and creating liturgical materials. For their role, the formators accompanied the newly professed—evaluating how their reality was impacting them, their feelings and prayer lives—and served as sounding boards during the transitional time. They also arranged materials, programs and gatherings, collaborating with Area coordinators and directors of the temporarily-professed in each country to support the sisters’ ongoing formation.
“As women of faith, we embraced this reality as an opportunity to grow and discover something positive in the midst of chaos, and to build a strong community by supporting and encouraging one another,” says Sister Evelyn. In the community, she adds, we “affirmed, listened, encouraged, challenged, recreated and helped each other in our own little ways. And this sense of belonging and interdependence gave us reason to be hopeful, as we took one day at a time.”
Serendipitously, due to travel restrictions, housing that would have been occupied by incoming candidates—who for now are receiving training and education in their home countries—became available for the group. “Sometimes,” says Sister Mary, “our crosses and our blessings are the same.”
This graced perspective makes for willing hearts and hands. “They didn’t ask for this,” says Sister Mary, “but they embraced it as part of their reality and found nourishment in living out our mission, which asserts, ‘Our life together enriches and strengthens us to foster community wherever we are.’”