Sisters of St. Joseph help deliver hope during pandemic


Fiona Roach

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on pause: schools are closed, many people are home from college or work, and nearly all big events have been cancelled. Meanwhile, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been busy in their efforts to combat the effects of the virus on the community.

Srs. Pat Bergen, Kathy Sherman, and Sarah Simmons have been making dinners to be distributed at The Quinn Center. This social outreach ministry of Saint Eulalia Parish in Maywood was founded in 2010 to address social justice concerns and outreach to a diverse Proviso community, and it is home to the “Playing and Planting” program organized by the Nazareth Community Builders. Because the soup kitchen cannot be open to the public, the meals the sisters are preparing are packed individually and passed out to families.

Sr. Pat notes that this is especially important in the time of the coronavirus, as rising unemployment has resulted in even more families in need. “The three of us intentionally pour as much love into the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as possible,” shared Sr. Pat.

In addition, Sr. Pat, along with Sr. Kathy, are online every morning at 9:00 a.m. with a Centering Prayer, and again at 4:30 p.m. for a Sharing of the Heart service. People join from all over the United States and the world, with viewers hailing from places like Peru, Australia and Germany, to participate in the tradition that has been alive since 1650 in Le Puy, France.

These services focus on building community and allowing people to share what is in their hearts. According to Sr. Pat, “People come anxious, nervous and frightened, but they usually end with a sense of hope.” This service is shared with Nazareth faculty, staff, alumni and parents.

Besides community building and centering prayers, Srs. Pat Borchardt and Kathleen Lucas have been making good use of their seamstress skills, as the two create hundreds of cloth masks to be distributed to first responders, healthcare workers, and the general public, as well as residents at Envision Unlimited, an organization that serves adults with disabilities.

Srs. Jeanne Oursler, Jackie Schmitz, and Mary Southard are also involved in making stuffed animals for children at St. Thomas Hospice who have lost a loved one to cancer.

These acts of charity and kindness only scratch the surface of what the Sisters of St. Joseph are doing. Sr. Mary Jo Curtsinger and Sr. Kathy Brazda recently took cookies to their nearby fire station. Sr. Kathy Sherman is hosting live music programs on Zoom to lift spirits during this time, and Sr. Mary Suthers contributed her art to create postcards addressing environmental protection and poverty.

Many of the sisters have even cut back on their own grocery budgets in order to provide more to food pantries and soup kitchens.

While the shelter-in-place order has kept the Sisters isolated, they are continuing to look for the positive. “We can no longer deny that everyone and everything is intimately connected. This tremendous suffering is evoking many good qualities, habits, and virtues in other human beings,” added Sr. Pat.

Sr. Kathleen Lucas noted, “The coronavirus has served as a reminder of how precious all life is–human and the planet! We have the opportunity to pause from our busyness and take a deeper look at what is really important.”

In times of deep uncertainty, it is remarkable and inspirational to see the generosity and selflessness displayed by the Congregation of St. Joseph. The Sisters are excited for the day when they can see their family and friends again, but until then, they will continue to keep busy with their numerous acts of service.