Sister in the Spotlight

Sr. Mary Continues Retreat Virtually

by Mary Hopkins, OP

From left: Srs. Mary Ellen Winston, Mary Hopkins, and Mary Houlihan
From left: Srs. Mary Ellen Winston, Mary Hopkins, and Mary Houlihan

What a wonderful invitation I received in January 2020 to preach a retreat for the Sisters of Notre Dame in Waterdown, Canada. I not only began preparation for the retreat, but I also began looking at that area of Waterdown as the Sisters said that I could come early or stay after the retreat in order to do some sight-seeing.

When COVID-19 hit, I figured that by September travel would be back to normal; wrong! Eventually I was contacted by Delia Calis, SSND, asking if I would consider preaching the retreat virtually by Zoom because they had no idea when the borders would be open again. I gulped and said, “I’ve never really used Zoom except participating in congregation gatherings.” I then heard the words coming out of my mouth, “I’d be willing to try to learn Zoom.” A new journey began.

The Notre Dames information technology person, Henry Kornstedt, who lives in Connecticut, began connecting with the Sisters in Canada and with me. We practiced and practiced, eventually feeling more comfortable. Mary Houlihan, OP, was also a great help. She knew much more about Zoom than I did, and she reassured me. Day one of the retreat arrived, and all connections worked well. Not only Sisters from Canada were connecting, but others from 12 additional sites in Canada and the United States. I breathed a huge sigh of relief following the first conference. This retreat/conference was developed by another Sister, a religious brother, and priest at the request of the National Religious Retirement Office to address loss and grief as experienced by members of religious congregations. Each retreat/conference is tailored to the Congregation making the request.

We began each session with a DVD expression of “Everyday God.” We explored losses of people, places, and things in our lives. Each day we prayed with and reflected on appropriate scripture references and considered how we might deal with unfinished business related to our losses. We’ve all been dealing with loss since early childhood, and many retreatants have been met with silence, suppressing their thoughts and feelings. There was time for individual conferences via Zoom or phone, and this also worked well.

The closing ritual for the retreat called for a leader of song and reader. Once again I was blessed; our Mary Ellen Winston, OP, led us in song and Mary Houlihan did the reading for us. The response to the retreat has been overwhelmingly positive. Our “Everyday God” is truly with us, even via Zoom. May all of us find new ways of ministry and simple presence through videoconferencing.

Click for Spectrum November 2020 Index

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