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Hope in Time of Pandemic Centers on Change of Heart, Belief in Resurrection
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June 5, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Where can we find hope in a time that seems fraught with uncertainty, such as in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Sister Carol Johannes, OP, addressed that question in “Hope – Despite it All,” the second in a monthly series of talks by members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee.

Sister Carol’s presentation was live-streamed to the Congregation from her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 20, 2020.

Sister Carol – spiritual director, retreat director, and former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation – offered four avenues for hope during these troubled times.

Trust in God

Noting the “huge strides in technology” that have taken place in the last several decades, Sister Carol said that the pandemic has “put us in touch with how very fragile life can be, despite all of these advances.” For people of faith, she said, this newfound sense of fragility reminds us “who we are and whose we are,” and of the need to place ourselves “consciously every day in God’s hands.”

Essential Unity of the Human Family

Sister Carol said that the pandemic has reminded us that we are one human family. “We’re all in this together,” she said. “We’re all called to reach out to help each other in any way that we can. If we’re open to grace, this time can be transformative – it can break down barriers between nations and cultures.” This time also can reveal to us the inequalities that force people in poverty to “misery, sickness, and death.” Sister Carol encouraged her listeners to challenge social structures that prevent people who are poor and people of color from being safe during the pandemic. “Today, like Jesus, we’re called to name injustice and do it with strength and conviction,” and without rancor or hostility, she said.

Name our Feelings

We are likely experiencing a number of feelings – fear of losing our loved ones or of contracting the virus and dying, as well as grief over the loss of loved ones or employment, and concern about the future. Sister Carol extensively quoted author Jack Kornfield, who spoke of the foolishness of fearing these emotions. “It’s important to hold the emotions and humanity of others with empathy – not trying to fix things simply holding them with gentle compassion,” Sister Carol said. She also recommended placing our own feelings in the hands of God or of Mary. “This is the formula for coming to a place of peace and healing.”

Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus

Sister Carol noted that many people during the pandemic will be confronted with the possibility of death, of mortality. “As those who see the resurrection of Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith, perhaps we might reframe the issue of challenge from dealing with the inevitability of our mortality to ponder the inevitability of our immortality” in Heaven, she said. Noting the fear that many have of entering Purgatory, Sister Carol pointed to the way that many Vatican II theologians understood it: “At the moment of our death, as we meet the All-Holy One, we become aware of our sinfulness in response to God’s holiness,” Sister Carol explained. “As we have this experience, we feel great sorrow and repentance. This purifies us and opens our way to eternal happiness.” She encouraged her listeners, when they are confronted with the possibility of dying during the pandemic, to be open to the bigger picture: “to the inevitability not only of our death but of the joy that will be ours.”

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