UISG, LCWR leaders discuss connections in pandemic, women in diaconate, vocations in Africa
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Global Sisters Report recently held a discussion with Sr. Jolanta Kafka, president of the International Union of Superiors General and general superior of the Claretian Missionary Sisters; Sr. Pat Murray, executive secretary of UISG and member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Sr. Elise García, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and who serves on the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters; and Sr. Carol Zinn, executive director of LCWR and a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia. This is an edited transcript of that discussion.
GSR: With a year of experience with the coronavirus pandemic almost behind us and the promise of vaccines on the horizon, what do you think will be the challenges of coping with COVID-19 in the coming year for sisters and their ministries?
Kafka: This past year, we can say there were two main experiences: loss and courage.
Loss because of the loss of lives, loss of certain areas of mission, and loss because of certain practices of encounter of processes that can be realized only when we are present altogether. We still, I think, carry on this loss. Something that we are not able to live out without is this mutual support in prayer.
Courage because the sisters were always in the first line in contact with those who have been affected in the midst of their communities and in their apostolic areas. Often, sisters were asked to volunteer even if they have not been prepared as nurses, but they offered themselves to serve in the critical areas.
This perspective will be continuing in the coming year of how to stand up from our loss and also how to keep up the courage to bring sisters to and to support mutually the sisters on the front line of the mission.
Murray: The pandemic is not coming to an end in many parts of the world. In fact, the second wave or the third wave is as demanding, and in some cases, it’s even more serious. One of the things I’d like to highlight is that sisters are experiencing the very same reactions as people everywhere. They’re dealing with fear and anxiety, and there’s a real challenge at various levels.
For many of the sisters, even coping with doing ordinary tasks within their communities has been very difficult. For example, when the external people are no longer able to come because the sisters want to protect those who are coming from their homes, then you have maybe a very small group who are managing a very big institution and helping those who are affected in many different ways.
We as UISG have been listening to those struggles and difficulties that the congregational leaders or the provincials are dealing with. We’ve tried to respond by offering different webinars to leaders and members. I counted the other day: We have offered something like 45 webinars during these months.
Some of these really focus on areas like, how do you deal with anxiety and stress not only for yourself, but also for the people with whom you minister? How do we accompany people who want to pray and reflect and deepen their faith at this time? How do you console people who are dealing with deaths in their own families and also deaths in the community where they were not able to ritualize the normal way? At one level, we are all experiencing this life.