GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — On the entrance desk, the kindly nun who greeted guests is lacking, and within the chapel, the place stained glass paints the partitions with pastels, she now not waves hi there from the final pew on the left. Within the convent’s lounge, Sister Mary Evelyn Labik isn’t resting in a tan recliner, and on its porch, she isn’t relishing the hummingbirds.
The center of this little convent is gone, alongside 20 different Felician Sisters across the U.S. And because the world round them ebbs into normalcy, surviving sisters are feeling a wrenching grief over their losses and a nagging have to know what all of it means.
“There’s obtained to be a motive,” Sister Mary Jeanine Morozowich says of her survival. “What’s God asking me to do?”
Amongst tons of of communities of Catholic sisters, the Felicians have neither the ubiquity of larger ones just like the Salesians, nor the singular focus of these just like the Faculty Sisters of Notre Dame, nor the reputation of girls following in Mom Teresa’s footsteps within the Missionaries of Charity. However they’re scattered like mustard seeds throughout the continent and past, from a clinic in Jacmel, Haiti, to a preschool south of the Arctic Circle in Tulita, Canada, operating inexpensive housing, ministering to inmates, educating in colleges and, repeatedly, focusing their work on the poor, disabled and sick.
Across the Felician world, gripping information trickled out from their convent in Livonia, Michigan, final March, of sisters changing into sick and being hospitalized.
By Good Friday, Sister Mary Luiza Wawrzyniak grew to become the sisters’ first casualty there, and three days afterward Easter Sunday, two extra died. By the tip of the primary week, the toll was 5, and by the tip of the second week it was a staggering 10.
These had been ladies who held the arms of the dying and who raised the undesirable, who pushed chalk to slate to show science and grammar and, by way of their very own instance, religion.
And, instantly, they had been gone.
“How many people,” Morozowich puzzled, “shall be left?”
Confined to their rooms as they desperately tried to cease the unfold, the Livonia sisters cracked their doorways within the morning to gather breakfast trays. They peered down the hallway to see if a brand new signal appeared bearing the information, in darkish marker on plain printer paper, that the night time had taken one other.
When it did, they absorbed it alone, pinching rosaries and mouthing the identical phrases time and again.
“Might our sister,” they requested, “enter the dominion of peace and light-weight.”
By the tip of Livonia’s outbreak, 13 had been killed, however summer season appeared to deliver an finish to the disaster. Lockdowns persevered at a number of the convents, however in others, a blissful sense of regular continued, going about their work and becoming a member of collectively for communal meals and the each day bookends of non secular life — morning and night prayers.
The reprieve wouldn’t final for the Felicians, although. A second wave of infections haunted and taunted with erratic effectivity, and by the center of November had robbed them of sisters in Buffalo, New York; Enfield, Connecticut; and right here in Greensburg.
At first, it appeared like Labik had nothing greater than a chilly. However quickly, the 78-year-old was taken away by paramedics, making the signal of the cross as she was led to the ambulance.
From the hospital, when she spoke to her sisters by telephone, she was lighthearted and laughing. They made plans for when she would return earlier than, instantly, she took a flip for the more severe.
When phrase of Labik’s demise reached the convent, her six sisters went to the chapel, the place they prayed and cried. She was later positioned in her casket barefoot, within the Franciscan custom, and buried in her brown behavior and black veil, with a wooden crucifix on string round her neck, and the straightforward silver band she was given when she professed her ultimate vows on her left hand’s ring finger.
“Deus meus et omnia,” was inscribed inside. “My God and my all.”
No ladies took ultimate vows with the Felicians in 2020; they ended the yr with 455 sisters throughout the continent. Fifteen sisters died of various causes, along with the 21 who died of COVID-19. Labik was the one sister to die in Greensburg, a shadow of the loss elsewhere and but no much less profound.
“In all places we go,” says Sister Amala Jose, who is part of the Daughters of Mary neighborhood however lives with the Felicians, “we keep in mind her and we miss her.”
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