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Michigan convent loses 13 nuns to coronavirus, 12 in 1 month

A convent outside Detroit lost 13 nuns to the novel coronavirus. Felician Sisters of North America

A Michigan convent has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus as it claimed 13 nuns, with 12 dying in just one month.

The nightmare, per the Global Sisters Report (GSR), began on Good Friday. From April 10 to May 10, 12 sisters died.

By June, the Felician Sisters convent in Livonia, outside Detroit, had lost their 13th sister to complications of COVID-19.

The women ranged in age from 69 to 99.

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Sister Mary Luiza Wawrzyniak, 99, was the first to die of the virus, CNN reports, followed by Sister Celine Marie Lesinski, 92, and Sister Mary Estelle Printz, 95, who both died on Easter Sunday.

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“We couldn’t contain the grief and the sorrow and the emotional impact,” Sister Noel Marie Gabriel, director of clinical health services for the Felician Sisters of North America, told the GSR. “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.”

By May 10, more nuns had died, including Sister Thomas Marie Wadowski, 73, Sister Mary Patricia Pyszynski, 93, Sister Mary Clarence (Adeline) Borkoski, 83, Sister Rose Mary Wolak, 86, Sister Mary Janice (Margaret) Zolkowski, 86, Sister Mary Alice Ann (Fernanda) Gradowski, 73, Sister Victoria Marie Indyk, 69, Sister Mary Martinez (Virginia) Rozek, 87, and Sister Mary Madeleine (Frances) Dolan, 82.

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Sister Mary Danatha (Lottie) Suchyta, 98, was the most recent sister to pass away.

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According to CNN, at least 30 sisters were infected and 17 recovered. Some are still struggling to recover.

A news release on the convent’s website says older sisters were hit hardest by the highly contagious virus, with lasting effects like weakness and respiratory problems.

“We grieve for each of our sisters who has passed during the time of the pandemic throughout the province, and we greatly appreciate all of those who are holding us in prayer and supporting us in a number of ways,” Sister Mary Christopher Moore, provincial minister of Our Lady of Hope Province, told CNN.

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Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the way they cared for each other had to change. Only 10 people could attend each funeral, according to the GSR.

“The faith we share with sisters as they are dying, the prayers we share with sisters as they are dying: We missed all that,” Sister Joyce Marie Van de Vyer told the GSR. “It kind of shattered our faith life a little bit.”
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The nuns provided valuable service in their community, from teaching to helping at-risk children to playing music, the GSR says.

Two even went abroad, with one working as a secretary in the English section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and another leading nursing students’ mission trips to Haiti.

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The Global Sisters Report says at least 19 other sisters have died in the U.S. from COVID-19, in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Michigan.

Internationally, at least 61 have died.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

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