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Winter Storm Nemo: Anticipation, beauty, community and reflection from Sister Jane Iannacone

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area

Records were set along the Northeast Coast of the United States last weekend: records for snowfall, records for winds, records for piles of snow, records for conversations about snow.

For the record, there are about a dozen Sisters of Providence ministering in Massachusetts and that state was in direct line with Winter Storm Nemo.

Sister Jane Iannacone ministers as a pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop, a peninsula on the Massachusetts coast east of Boston. She started making some notes about the snowfall as it came rapidly and excessively on Friday. One of the first things she mentioned was that her pastor was on retreat, ahem, in Florida. He must have had some divine intervention for scheduling! Another priest who had planned to fill in for the pastor couldn’t make it, so Sister Jane was trying to find another replacement to cover he weekend Masses. A Pasta Dinner at the church on Saturday night was canceled.

“I went out shopping for some comfort food, Junior Mints and chicken pot pie. Three of my friends went out to dinner because, with all of the predictions, no one will be out for a very long time,” Sister Jane said. And, remember, the snow is not a full force by this time.

Here are some excerpts from what she saw during the weekend in her own words:

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area.

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area.

Friday afternoon/evening: It’s usually my day off. The entire staff was sent home early. The governor has declared a state of emergency and all vehicles need to be off the roads by 4 p.m.

It’s about 6 p.m. Friday. They say this is just the start and there are about six inches already. The plow came by and they did not even get to the bare ground. The wind is fierce. I cannot even see across the street. I am fortunate because I live in the center of town so I don’t need to worry about flooding.

One strange sensation for me is that, since I live so close to the airport, I always hear the planes. It is eery hearing no airplane traffic. The last time I remember that was during 9/11 (2001). The only concern I have is if I lose power. In Winthrop, there are only two ways in and out of town. They just closed one of the roadways out of town because of the predicted high tide.

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area.

Photo taken by Sister Jane Iannacone in the Winthrop, Mass., area.

Saturday morning: There is a beauty to the untouched snow. I don’t know how beautiful it might be when I have to get out in it. It is still snowing and there is concern about the high tide scheduled for 10 a.m. I have received a number of calls from other sisters and other people to make sure I am OK. I thank God that I am safe and warm and I am praying for those less fortunate than myself, and those who are assisting them. I cannot even see out my windows to take pictures.

Saturday afternoon: I spent most of the day making sure the Masses are covered for the weekend. All it all, it was a pretty quiet day. I stayed in my comfy clothes. I had some extra prayer time and watched Downton Abbey. I checked on some of the sisters in the area and all are doing OK. I hear the snow blower in the distance. Maybe I will be shoveled out by tomorrow. Now the hard job of cleanup has begun. The driving ban has been lifted.

Sunday morning: Instead of naming this storm Nemo, I think it should have been called Jaws. The sun is out and there is a beauty to the snow. As I prayed this morning, I enjoyed the beauty, but was also very much aware of how nature controls us and I was very mindful of those suffering as a result of the storm. When I went out to shovel on Saturday afternoon, I discovered that my combination push button lock was frozen. If I shut the door from the outside, there would be no way for me to get back in as the other doors are blocked by huge snow drifts. Thank God I did not shut the door behind me.

I went over to church to set up for 8 a.m. Mass. Walking is a challenge. I had to leave the convent door ajar, tied to the railing to it does not fly complete open. We have an 8, 10 and 12 o’clock Mass on Sunday. I was completely amazed at the number of parishioners who showed up for liturgy. Most of them had to walk since there is a parking ban and our parking lots are not completely plowed out.

I am very touched and moved by the kindness of people. Neighbors are helping each other dig out. People are walking instead of driving. One of the parishioners is coming by with a heat gun to thaw out my lock. A storm that has been so terrible has brought out the goodness in people. It is truly what community is all about.

Monday morning: This is the fifth-largest blizzard in Boston’s recorded history. Public transportation is up and running and I hear the planes again! A photo of the Winthrop shore made the New York Times on Sunday. The main problem now is that the streets are so narrow and the area is so congested that there is no place to put the snow. It is a challenge especially at intersections because of the snowbanks. They will eventually load the snow into trucks and bring it to snow farms, which are areas where huge mountains of snow are taken to melt. At one time, they used to just dump it in the ocean, but they cannot do that now because of the environment. We are very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse.

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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