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Postcards From The Pandemic: Ursuline Nun Finds Solace In Psalms

For the past 58 years, Sr. Mary Jean Raymond has been a member of the Ursuline community in Cleveland. She ministers at St. Aloysius church in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.

The church has resumed in-person services with congregants spread out and wearing masks. The desire for contact and connection has been strong among the community members, including the youngest among them.

“A little one ran up to Sr. Lois and me and at about knee level, gave us a big hug and we looked at each other and we said we can’t tell a child don’t touch us, stay away,” Raymond said. “Her mother looked and we said, 'It’s ok, she needed to do that.'”

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Community In Lockdown

At the beginning of March, when things first locked down, I spent more time kind of staying home. The street I live on is a very long pass-through street. A lot of people use it as a cut-through, and a lot of garbage accumulates on this street.

So I took my big rolling trash bin, and I would go out early in the morning and pick up trash. I didn’t think anyone was noticing. Well little by little, other neighbors started coming out to talk to me or to pick up trash with me.

And then people who walked their dogs started walking them when they saw me out. So we were able to really connect with each other and talk about the neighborhood and how we were feeling.

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Fr. Mark Hobson celebrates a socially-distanced liturgy at St. Aloysius church in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. [St. Aloysius Church]

I was reading online about something that is called skin hunger and how during this whole thing we’re trying to be so careful about not touching people. And just the other day we were saying,Wow, we haven’t shaken each other’s hand in church.’ We have a very affectionate community, we have not been able to go around and hug people at the kiss of peace.

That’s been difficult on our people. We haven’t been able to have coffee corner after church and our parishioners are saying,Wow, we can’t wait for the day we can sit and socialize again.' ​

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Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, members of St. Aloysius church in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood have held a weekly vigil, holding up crosses and reading the names of people killed by police. [Annie Wu / ideastream]

Divine Comfort

The sisters traditionally say what’s called the divine office, the daily office, and it’s comprised mainly of the psalms. I have found myself going to the psalms in the Bible more because they talk a lot about the Lord being with us in times of tragedy, in times of crisis.

So personally, I found a lot of new meaning in some of the words that I have prayed for years and years. There’s one especially where the Lord says, ‘I will be your rock and your shield.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s what I need right now.’

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St. Aloysius holds a drive-in food distribution twice a week and a weekly boxed hot meal distribution in its parking lot. [St. Aloysius Church]

Solace In History

And also I think a lot about my Ursuline sisters because here in Cleveland back in 1918, they were very involved in going out in the streets and the homes and helping during the influenza pandemic then.

They would walk back to Villa Angela in the evening down this long hallway where there was these special lights set up that were thought to kill viruses. They would take off their big mantels that they wore — their coats — and hang them up in that hallway overnight.

The Ursulines proudly say that not one of our sisters ever got sick.

I’m kind of relying upon that now.

This audio postcard was produced by Brady Condon.

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.