A vicious outbreak of coronavirus at a US convent has claimed the lives of thirteen nuns, with most of them dying in the space of a single month. The Livonia convent in Michigan was hit hard with multiple infections between Good Friday and May 10. In that space of time, 12 sisters perished and an additional eighteen were infected with the virus. They were all members of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice.
"We couldn't contain the grief and the sorrow and the emotional impact," said Sr. Noel Marie Gabriel, director of clinical health services for the Felician Sisters of North America. "We went through the motions of doing what we had to do, but that month was like a whole different way of life. That was our most tragic time. It was a month of tragedy and sorrow and mourning and grieving."
Sadly, one of the 18 sisters who initially survived the illness later died from its effects on June 27. According to a report in Global Sisters, the thirteen nuns who perished may represent the worst loss of life to a community of religious women since the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Tragically, the sisters are also unable to grieve as a collective community, with infection control measures preventing them from gathering together as usual. Restrictions include not being able to attend the funerals of those lost, limits on the number of people allowed in the chapel and a ban on entering each other's rooms.
With the community comprising of 65 sisters in total prior to the pandemic, those remaining must now await the heartbreaking day that they reunite and take stock of the starkly diminished numbers.
"I get chills thinking about that," said Sr. Mary Andrew Budinski, the superior of Livonia convent. "The raw grief is yet to come, I think."
Sister Andrew said that visitors were banned from entering the premises from March 14 as the pandemic worsened. Despite precautions being taken early on, the illness quickly began to run riot through the community. "I first heard two aides had contracted the virus," she said. "We don't know who they are, and we don't want to know. Then it hit sisters on the second floor, and it went through like wildfire."
Another sister added: "We all knew if it hit the place, it would be bad. But we never anticipated how quickly it would go."