Dear friends and family,
Sister Edna Hess • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
By now, we Sisters of the Precious Blood, myself included, were hoping that most people would be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that masks would be a thing of the past. However, a large percentage of the U.S. population refuses to be vaccinated and the delta variant is causing us to rethink putting away our masks and being with those who are not part of our “family” group. I find myself pondering: What would Jesus have done in this situation? I see a Jesus who was concerned for others, who wanted to bring healing — both physical and spiritual. I see a Jesus willing to die for us so that we might have life in abundance.
Today, I see nurses and doctors exhausted from caring for COVID patients, some dying trying to save their patients. I also see people getting vaccinated for the good of others. First, it was to protect our seniors; now to protect the children not eligible for the vaccine. I also see people who refuse to get vaccinated or refuse to wear a mask because it limits their personal freedom of choice. I ask myself: Where does personal freedom end and the common good begin? Has our individualism led us down a path that no longer leaves room for the common good?
As Steven J. Squires and Philip Anderson write in the article “Chaplains, Pope Francis and the Healing Encounter,” published in Health Progress, the journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, “the church’s mission is not a cloistered one, enclosed in a cathedral with high walls differentiating, if not sequestering, itself from its community. The mission is not self-centered and more concerned with its own functioning than the plight of others. It is constantly assessing others’ needs and struggles. It is enmeshed with community, possibly indistinguishable from community. If mission were movement, outward-towards-others describes the movement, not inward-toward-self.”
Why do I refer to the present health situation? In this issue of Sharing & Caring, we are highlighting our Sister chaplains, those who have served the sick and suffering in hospitals and nursing homes. Before Vatican II in the 1960s, you would not have found any Sister of the Precious Blood serving as a chaplain in a nursing home or in a hospital. That was considered a priest’s job.
Vatican II proclaimed that the Church is the People of God and that all of us, laity and those who are ordained, have an important mission within the Church. Some Sisters who had been teachers felt called to minister to the sick and the dying, as well as to their families in hospitals and nursing homes. They prepared themselves for this ministry just as they had done to be teachers.
These Sisters, urged by Jesus’ love, became a life-giving, healing and reconciling presence to thousands of people. They were Jesus’ presence to the sick and the aged, to the families of those who were dying. They companioned those whose faith was failing and were agents of reconciliation where there was need for forgiveness and healing. God bless our former and present chaplains, especially those serving during COVID-19.