Lent in a “Post-Covid” World

Sister Sue Czaplicki

By Sister Sue Czaplicki, SSND

It’s been about four years since the height of the Covid epidemic. I had begun to believe that we could return to some of the norms and niceties from before: handshakes, hugs, being able to visit without worrying about carrying Covid to/from the person I’m visiting with. 

December brought a significant setback. I live in a senior housing residence with 200 other people, 62 of them are SSNDs. We had an outbreak of Covid here and the building management decided to shut down everything for a while. 

All social activities were cancelled, Mass was canceled (normally we have a priest come in for the 100 or so people here), even our small prayer groups were canceled.  

So last December, we were unable to celebrate either the holy days or the holidays.  

No Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Mass; no New Year’s Day Mass, no communal prayer. While our Sisters have become accustomed to experiencing Mass on TV or online during the week, it’s just not the same. Prayers yes, Eucharist no.  

As we approach Lent, I wonder what will come. Will we be able to celebrate together? Will we face another Covid outbreak as family and friends come to visit?  

So this Lent, the normal questions of what should I give up, or what should I do more of, just don’t fit. 

My basic question is: How do we/I celebrate in community while remaining healthy? 

In her opening letter in You Are Sent, Sr. Mary Margaret says … “At our deepest core we find a strong desire for the Transcendent, for God … We also find at the deepest core of our being a strong social orientation, a desire to be with others, to belong … At the deepest core of our being we find a desire and need to be for others.”

The question for me is how do I protect the safety of others (and myself), whether through technology or isolation, and still fulfill that innate desire for both the Transcendent and my call to be with others? 

My answer is to be present internally, while being careful externally. Perhaps some of these ideas are obvious to others but it helps my commitment as I write them.

Send “real” birthday cards, not e-cards. There is nothing wrong with e-cards; however, there is something special about receiving a card in the mail!

Whether attending Mass in-person or online, say the responses out loud, not just in my head. Be fully there. In charity for those sitting next to me, I will, however, avoid singing the hymns out loud.

While I can’t provide the same kind of hugs I would have in the past, I can revive the practice I learned during my novitiate of writing cards to the Sisters (thanks NG!).

Choose, when I work with a Sister on a technology call, to also spend time just visiting.  

None of these are earthshaking practices, but they seem more beneficial than giving up whatever (fill in the blank).  

If I net it out, what they come down to is being fully conscious of and present to the other.  

It is a reminder to not take relationships for granted. 

I pray that you have a fully conscious, fully present Lent. Please pray for me, too.

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