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Being Eucharist in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak

Note: Sister Paula Damiano’s latest blog entry was written on Thursday, March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph.

I’m going to bed tonight with such a wide range of emotions.

It’s the Feast of Saint Joseph, an important patron saint for the community and also the anniversary of the death of Sister Rose Marita Riordan, one of my favorite sisters in the whole world who died a few years ago.

So, I was already feeling somewhat melancholy as I went into the church for Liturgy. Of course, the coronavirus news has put me in something of a funk.

Before Mass began, our General Superior announced that, due to new restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people, today would be the last day we would have Mass. I guessed this would be coming, as more and more dioceses are putting out similar guidelines.

Meanwhile, theologians and other persons have been writing their “take” on the issue. So I’d been fine with all of this and encouraged by these articles and saying to myself, “Yes, this is wonderful theology – I understand it. I agree with it.” The ideas they’ve presented about the communion of saints and our unity across the ages is inspiring. Another wrote of the universality of the Church which, by the very nature of Baptism, makes us participants in every Eucharistic Liturgy. My favorite article was one that focused on the universal and cosmic significance of the Eucharist.

Each posted article was beautiful until, of course, it happened to me! With the announcement, I had such a sadness inside; I felt like I was losing something very important. Every prayer spoken, every song sung, took on a new and different meaning. “I receive the living God, and my heart is full of joy.” The words of this song (not usually my favorite), where poignant. As the communion procession continued and each sister received the living God, my heart was, indeed, full of joy – for God’s gift to us, for my sisters, for Father Dan.

Looking around, I wondered if everyone who was there in church today would be there a few months from now. My heart ached for my sisters who for 70, 80, and 90 years or more have hardly been without the Eucharist for more than a few days. What were they experiencing? What could we do to BE EUCHARIST for one another during this time? How to be Christ for one another in ways that are nourishing?

I wondered why, even though I am sometimes not at Mass, it was affecting me this way. What was the message I needed to receive?

My answer came just before falling asleep when the words from John 1:14 entered my mind: “The word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” Christ dwells within me, within each of us. We become the tabernacle! I slept peacefully.

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Sister Paula Damiano

Sister Paula, formerly Sister Mario, has been a Sister of Providence since 1967. She has ministered as a teacher, director of vocations, pastoral associate and as a General Councilor for the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as director of programs and retreats at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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8 Comments

  1. Marsha Speth, SP on March 21, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Thank you for sharing this, Paula! I had those same feelings during our last Mass.
    This crisis is transforming how I see and how I have taken for granted so much!

  2. S. Denise Wilkinson on March 21, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    I add my thanks, Paula. Hust st hearing there would be no liturgies until the crisis abates moved me to tears. I surprised myself by such an emotional response. Much to ponder and to learn.

    • BETH ROELLGEN on March 23, 2020 at 7:22 am

      Hi Sisters Denise and Paula. We surely do miss seeing you. Loved this article Paula. We are praying for all of our friends at the Woods. Stay well! beth&missy

  3. S. Jeanne Hagelskamp on March 21, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    Thank you so much, Paula, for these comments. I, too, was filled with tears and very sad. I sat there, wondering what each sister might be thinking as she heard the announcement. It is so hard not to be with one another physically in prayer or at Eucharist during these difficult days. We unite with all our Sisters, and all who share the charism of Providence, wherever they may be…to pray for the needs of our world.

  4. Theresa Tighe on March 23, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Lovely. Illness keeps me from attending Mass as much as I would I like. I make a spiritual communion and try to see Christ manifest in me and those around me. And when I can go, I am filled with joy, especially at communion.

  5. geri herber on March 25, 2020 at 11:14 am

    I treasure my “connection”
    with you DEAR Sisters! Having “loss” Srs.. M. Maxine and Patty Fillenwarth this year …my “connection” through the Website…keeps my love and presence alive! Many thanks for you Mission to me!

  6. Eileen Horan on March 25, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for your words, S. Paula. I, too can hardly believe we cannot receive the Eucharist at this time. I sometimes imagined not having enough priests to have mass, but never because of something like we’re experiencing now. I have a feeling when things get back to being more normal, we will all go to mass more often with hearts full of gratitude! God bless you with continued good health!

  7. Ann Henderson on April 5, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    This is so beautiful, Paula. Thank you for sharing. I joined my congregation here in Georgia this morning via Facebook live for our Palm Sunday service, feeling grateful for the connection yet missing the “in person” experience of singing and praying and breaking bread together. Living through this pandemic will surely reshape us. May the peace of God be with ALL.

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