The idea of making protective masks during the COVID-19 pandemic started in our Maryknoll lay missioner house here in Haiti, but we had no big plans in place. Then our Religious of Jesus and Mary friends offered us a sewing machine. Another friend, Geri Lanham, said Mercy Beyond Borders (MBB), a non-profit organization helping women, where she works, had funds available. Diana, a Haitian woman, located fairly priced materials. Fellow Maryknoll Lay Missioners Jill Foster and Sami Scott offered to help cut and sew.
Just as we were getting into the swing of things, our sewing machine went kaput. After two frustrating hours of attempted repairs, I asked Geri if MBB still had access to the old Singers they had used for sewing classes. She jumped to it and got an antique Singer delivered to our house. I researched and quickly had it threaded. However, I failed to get it sewing, never having used a machine with a foot pedal.
Not giving up, Geri connected me with another Haitian woman, Marie Jeanne, who taught me how to use the machine. “Don’t get discouraged,” she said. “Give yourself time.” I felt a connective love that binds us all together.
This same love dictates every good act in this time of uncertainty, pain and fear.
Creating 900 masks is no small task, but those who use them will know love in every stitch, and, I pray, be better guarded against illness.
Abby Belt, MKLM
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was quarantined after returning from Guatemala. One morning I went to the nurses’ station to get my temperature taken. The nurse and I began talking. “I have worked with many terminally ill patients,” she said, “but I am impressed at how aware of their mortality Maryknollers here are. They are not afraid and this gives them a great sense of peace.” In this time of COVID-19, may Jesus give all of us his peace.
Rodrigo Ulloa, M.M.
One of the sacred rituals we Maryknoll sisters celebrate together during Holy Week is “Tenebrae,” which means “darkness.” During this prayer 13 candles are lit and gradually extinguished amid singing and praying and contemplating the death of Jesus.
This year when we could not gather because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our worship committee came up with the idea of using the paging system, which can be heard throughout the hallways in our center, to lead the prayers.
Each sister was given a Tenebrae booklet so she could pray with the rest of the community. Sisters put chairs outside their rooms, being careful to observe the six-feet social distancing protocol as they joined in prayer.
Easter Sunday, we were united again as our paging system rang out with Alleluias. We then joined in a chorus of “In Your Easter Bonnet.”
Mary Ellen Manz, M.M.
Many Maryknoll Affiliate chapters have conducted virtual meetings to share community, spirituality and global vision during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kenya Virtual Chapter is comprised of members from Kenya, Germany and several U.S. states who are Catholics, Muslims and Protestants. Via Zoom, the chapter recently focused on how people in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, are coping with COVID-19. It was eye-opening to see how impossible it is for the poor in those two cities to stay physically distant when they are crowded into very small areas. In this time of separation, Maryknoll affiliates hold onto the spirit that we are all connected.
Robert Short, Maryknoll affiliate