Michigan Convent Tragically Loses 13 Sisters to Coronavirus

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A thirteenth sister at a Michigan convent died of COVID-19 last month on the heels of 12 of her sisters dying in the span of just one month from the same virus.

The convent, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Livonia, is home to Felician sisters who live in close, communal quarters.

“We grieve for each of our sisters who has passed during the time of the pandemic throughout the province, and we greatly appreciate all of those who are holding us in prayer and supporting us in a number of ways,” said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, provincial minister of Our Lady of Hope Province, in a statement to the New York Times.

Moore, who oversees the more than 400 Felician sisters in North America, told the publication that their ministries “continue to serve those most in need and provide education and care for people from infants and children to our elderly” amid the pandemic.

The sisters lost to the virus were aged 69 to 99 and had all reportedly been members of the Felician congregation for at least 50 years. Twelve of them died between April 10 and May 10, while the thirteenth sister died at the end of June. 

Restrictions had been put in place within the convents in an attempt to slow the virus’s spread by the congregation, including no-visitor policies and social distancing. While the sisters would usually meet five times a day — three times for meals, twice for prayers — the congregation announced in April that all of its large convents would be placed under “full-room quarantine.” Sisters received their meals in their rooms on disposable dishes and utensils.

Other communal living spaces, like nursing homes, have been hit hardest by the global pandemic; with close living quarters, many communal spaces, and group activities, they are difficult quarters in which to contain the virus. In another report by the Times, they found that more than 42 percent of the country’s pandemic fatalities happened within nursing homes.

The tragedy with the 13 Livonia sisters “may be the worst loss of life to a community of women religious since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” says the Global Sisters Report, a non-profit Catholic news site, who added that international 61 Felician sisters have died from the coronavirus.

The sisters who died were Sr. Mary Luiza Wawrzyniak, Sr. Celine Marie Lesinski, Sr. Mary Estelle Printz, Sister Luiza, Sr. Thomas Marie Wadowski, Sr. Mary Patricia Pyszynski, Sr. Mary Clarence (Adeline Borkoski), Sr. Rose Mary Wolak, Sr. Mary Janice (Margaret) Zolkowski, Sr. Mary Alice Ann (Fernanda) Gradowski, Sr. Victoria Marie Indyk, Sr. Mary Martinez (Virginia) Rozek, Sr. Mary Madeleine (Frances) Dolan, and Sr. Mary Danatha (Lottie) Suchyta.

Tags: Navigating the Pandemic, Overcoming Adversity, Grief, Death

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Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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