In this time of massive uncertainty and suffering, people everywhere are anxious and seeking hope. In poor faith communities across the country, Catholic sisters are heroically stepping up to help.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, sisters on the frontlines are reinventing their ministries to fit today’s unprecedented circumstances and ease the pain of so many.
Sister Gabriela (Gaby) Luna Diaz, who is part of Catholic Extension’s U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, is working with Hispanic populations in northwestern Wisconsin to help them confront the hardships of this crisis—including job loss, illness, fear and isolation—and stay connected to the Church.
In very creative ways, she is leveraging technology to provide counseling and minister to the poor that she serves.
From Mexico, Sister Gaby is here with two other sisters of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Teresa. When they arrived in December 2019 to minister to marginalized Hispanic communities, they certainly didn’t envision facing a global health crisis just as they were getting their feet planted.
In the last couple weeks, with all the social distancing measures, they have found new ways to be present.
“We call people, FaceTime with them and exchange photos and messages via social media,” she said.
During Sunday Masses, when people cannot attend in person, she and the other sisters have Skype sessions with several people. “We pray the readings, sing and have reflections,” she said.
Additionally, through Skype sessions, they pray the rosary together and have guided meditations. “Every day we are finding creative ways to let people know that they are not alone. We remind them that God and their community is with them.”
Sister Gaby knows there is a great need in her communities for this type of connectedness. They have such a hunger to be close to each other in this time of isolation. “That is one positive piece of this pandemic,” she said. “People are craving closeness. They are realizing how much we need each other. Sometimes, we take that for granted.” They serve several rural communities in the Diocese of Superior.
She knows families who are suffering through sickness and unemployment. She knows this is not an easy time for anyone but realizes that immigrants have particular needs. They feel the economic pressures and job insecurity more intensely. They rely on their faith in visceral ways and feel the loss of regular sacraments. She and the sisters are doing everything possible to creatively and compassionately ease their suffering, including in Rice Lake, one of the communities they serve.
Sister Gaby has been reflective about her role as a missionary vocation. “As missionaries we are used to imagining ways to keep people close despite the great distances.” And she knows there are still many lonely people out there. “We need to find them,” she said. “As missionaries, our work is to be present in even the most remote places.”
In these times of COVID-19, “remote” has taken on new meaning. But these missionary sisters are leading the way in breaking down the barriers of remoteness. They are showing us that the universal Church is way bigger than any one of us, and we don’t have to be in the same room to be together as Catholics. “We can still be united,” she said. “And the one thing we can always do is pray.”
Sister Gaby and her sisters are among many leaders that are alleviating the stress and hurt of desperate communities who depend on them to shepherd them through these unparalleled times. You can help!
Struggling faith communities need your help.