An Experience of COVID

By: Sr. Patricia Hannan, OP
New Zealand Dominican Sisters

Life for me during these months of COVID has been an ever-deepening experience of “Be still and know that I am God.”

I joined the Dominicans when I was seventeen. For many years I worked in educational ministries, then, with canonical qualifications, worked for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, often in advocacy for people who worked for the Church, with Maori whanau issues, and with recently arrived refugee families. Now I am in my eighties, living with other Dominican Sisters in a Christian retirement village with around 800 residents. As the elderly are vulnerable from the virus, our Government has asked retirement facilities to go into full lockdown where possible. So, we have security guards on all the entrances to our 26 acres property on the coast of Auckland. The emphasis has been on safety through measures such as social distancing. This means that most of our facilities are closed – the gymnasium, swimming pool, theatre, shops etc. Shopping for food has been online from local supermarkets who deliver to reception and then the village staff bring the goods to our front doors.

I walk around the coast each day, meeting other residents, chatting together while keeping the required two meters distance between us. But the volunteer work many of us do in the residents care facility and in the hospitals has been suspended. So, much of the day is spent in an unexpected and welcome spiritual retreat. The Chapel has been rearranged into reflective prayer centres with chairs two meters apart. I have time and freedom to contemplate the ever-changing sea and our cosmic God. Elijah found God in the sound of sheer silence. How do I live to love and truth now? T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets writes: “And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.”

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