Women religious see the virus on four continents


Nasreen Daniel, above right, demonstrated sewing a face mask at the sisters’ sewing education center in Pakistan. With classes cancelled around the nation, Loretto’s sewing group has turned to making face masks for the poor. (Photo Special to The Record)

From the Holy Land of Kentucky to parts of South America, Africa and Asia, religious orders based in the Archdiocese of Louisville are battling COVID-19 along with the people they serve.

In Pakistan, the Sisters of Loretto put their sewing education center to work producing face masks for the area’s poorest residents at risk of infection.

“All the educational institutions all over Pakistan are closed by the order of our government. The government said that all gatherings, even in the churches and mosques, should be banned,” said Sister Nasreen Daniel. “We don’t know exactly how many people are affected by this virus, because people in the villages are not much aware of it.”

As of March 29, Pakistan reportedly had 21 deaths and more than 1,600 cases of infection. But there, like much of the world, testing is limited.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in India are under a lockdown order, but are hoping to educate people in rural areas about preventing the virus’ spread. They are also attempting to help provide food to people on the margins.

Two of the sisters’ hospitals have been asked to open isolation wings for COVID-19 patients. And a number of sisters serve as doctors and nurses. India has reportedly seen about 1,200 cases thus far and 32 deaths.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Botswana and Belize are following the restrictions of their governments, said a spokesperson for the sisters.

In Peru, two Ursuline Sisters of Louisville work at Saint Angela Merici School in Callao, a town outside Lima. The school, founded by the Louisville Ursulines, has had to close due to the pandemic and sent its 300 students home. The sisters had to cancel a planned trip to Louisville, said Sister Sue Scharfenberger by email.

Peru has reportedly had about 950 cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths as of March 29, mostly in Lima.

Sister Loretta Guenther, was photographed holding a message to her family in her room at Nazareth Home-Clifton, which is closed to visitors.

Stateside, most of the sisters are in the high-risk group for COVID-19 vulnerability — they’re over age 60. And many in the archdiocese live in nursing homes. Those in homes haven’t been able to receive visitors in-person for the last two weeks. Instead, they have turned to prayer.

At the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Joseph Home for the Aged, residents and sisters alike fall into the vulnerable group.

“It has been difficult for residents to visit with their families, but we are a resourceful group,” said a spokesperson for the sisters.

The sisters’ annual Turtle Derby, which is usually held in April at the height of the Derby season, has been postponed to Aug. 30, the Sunday before the rescheduled Sept. 5 running of the Kentucky Derby. Aug. 30 also happens to be the feast day of the sisters’ foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan.

At Nazareth Home-Clifton, where 10 Ursuline Sisters live, a spokesperson said the sisters seem to be doing well, though they miss visitors.

“In lot of ways, they feel they are not alone because the rest of world is going through it, too.”

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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