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October 20, 2022, Fort Lauderdale, Florida – If you want to die well, make peace with yourself, with God, and with your past.
That is the message that Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, has for people in the United States – especially for the many people who try to deny or ignore the reality of death. Sister Xiomara recently spoke to U.S. Catholic about her experience as a chaplain at Loyola University Medical Center outside of Chicago during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is now a chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital-Trinity Health in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In the interview, Sister Xiomara recalled the experience of the first death of COVID-19 at Loyola University Medical Center – and of the multiple deaths that the chaplains, doctors, and nurses witnessed during the early weeks of the pandemic. “In less than three months, we had more than 500 deaths,” she said. “Every single day we accompanied families by phone. We were beyond exhausted.”
Sister Xiomara said the chaplains not only accompanied the patients and their families, but also the “whole team” of health care professionals and those who helped them, such as the people who cleaned the hospital rooms. “That resiliency and collaboration helped us prevent burnout and keep going,” she said.
Sister Xiomara said that the experience of death of the patient and the families depends on the circumstances and on the culture of the people involved. Sister Xiomara was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, a community-oriented society with close families and communities. “For us, death is part of life,” she said. In the United States, “many people live in denial, but the truth is: if you are alive, you will die.”
As a chaplain, Sister Xiomara has advice on how to think about death. “Try to make peace with yourself first,” she said. “Then make your peace with God.” She pointed to the importance of living a good life to prepare for death. “I think the important thing is to live life in the present and be the best human being you can be,” she said. “Try to live in peace, to make peace, to build peace, and to live authentically. Try to do things that give life. That is all you can take with you.”
Read the entire interview, published in the November 2022 issue of U.S. Catholic, Vol. 87, No. 11.
August 25, 2022, New York, New York – Since October 2019, Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, has given voice to the Dominican family on issues of concern as they are addressed at the United Nations. Sister Durstyne ministers as the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) representative at the United Nations.
“My goal is to assist Dominican women in bringing their voice to the UN on behalf of civil society,” Sister Durstyne told Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM, in a recent “In Good Faith” podcast for A Nun’s Life. “We are trying to represent some of the issues that Dominicans worldwide are concerned about, such as climate change; such as nuclear weapons; such as homelessness; [and mining] extractions from indigenous areas, particularly in the Amazon.”
Sister Durstyne’s ministry includes serving on several working groups. She spoke at length about her involvement in the Working Group on Girls, which is bringing girls ages 14 to 18 from around the world together virtually to “engage in conversation and write statements” about issues of concern to them, such as gender violence, Sister Durstyne said.
“Really, it’s an opportunity for girls not to be alone,” Sister Durstyne said. She gave the example of girls in Afghanistan, who, after the Taliban take-over in August 2021, face fewer opportunities and less freedom. “They’re not alone, because there are other girls in the world who are mindful of what’s happening to them, and they’re not going to let [the girls in Afghanistan] be silenced. … These young girls around the world will be advocating for all girls.”
Sister Durstyne’s interview is featured on the “In Good Faith” podcast’s page on the website of A Nun’s Life.