An experience during this time of the pandemic in Stockton, California

Sister Patricia Simpson, O.P.
Dominican Sisters of San Rafael
Stockton, California

Four Dominican Sisters live together at St. Joseph’s Convent in Stockton, California. Two sisters minister at St. Joseph Medical Center and two are involved in volunteer ministries. Well, this is the way it was before COVID-19 became part of our lives in March of this year. During these past months one sister continues going to the Medical Center on a daily basis while the other three remain at home. Remaining at home does not mean that our volunteering has ceased. Each of our ministries has been affected and changed and now grown into a communal ministry.

We have opened our hearts and hands to saying yes to requests from the Medical Center and other agencies that request our assistance in providing for the various needs of the Stockton community. So we find ourselves preparing “gratitude bags” consisting of apples, peanuts, cookies, or muffins. These bags are then distributed to the Medical Center employees to say thank you for their work during these difficult days. We have prepared “keeping yourself well” bags containing hand sanitizers and masks which have been distributed to homeless communities throughout Stockton. Providing bottles of water, small bags of snacks for the homeless, phoning elderly adults or those who are unable to go out, writing thank you notes to physicians, nurses and first responders fill our days of volunteer ministry. With each note, with each “gratitude bag” or “keeping yourself well bag” goes our prayer for each recipient to remain safe and well.

At the beginning of this pandemic, we wanted to offer words of support and encouragement to our neighbors and friends. We decided to create a “lawn preaching” that would change each Sunday. Our community gathers for Mass in our community room and ‘attends Mass’ with Father Austin Fleming from Belmont, Massachusetts. From the scriptures of the liturgy and Father’s homily we decide on a message of hope or encouragement that is displayed outside our home for all those who pass by. Our neighbors have told us how much they appreciate these “preachings” and look forward to a new one each week.

These past months have been difficult. These past months have been frustrating. However, these past months have been a blessing!  I have learned that even from home there are many ways, even small and what seems inconsequential ways to serve others. All I need to do is to open my eyes, ears, hands and heart to find these opportunities and to say YES to each and every one.

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