More than 200 years ago in France, Blessed Alphonse Maria Eppinger, then Elisabeth Eppinger, was born during challenging times—disease, poverty, and war ravaged in her village and beyond. Instead of being discouraged by the pain she witnessed, she was enlightened by the direct connection she saw between the suffering of Jesus Christ and the suffering experienced by those around her.
Blessed Alphonse Maria believed that a person’s suffering was not an end in itself but real participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, when the time came, she instructed her Sisters to “contemplate, live, and proclaim the mystery of the redemption,” so that they and others may find fullness of life through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.
Inspired by the Charism of their Founder, the Sisters of the Redeemer are called by the spirit of God to be a healing presence in a hurting world.
Their mission statement calls for them to bring “the hope that God offers in the midst of human struggle.” They live this mission day in and day out. Still, perhaps there is no finer example of it in action than witnessing how the Sisters and the rest of the Redeemer Family responded to the COVID-19 pandemic that cripples our world.
Healthcare systems were one of the most significant areas deeply affected by the pandemic—supply demands, tighter visitation policies, longer hours worked by staff, new safety guidelines, a statewide lockdown—all contributed to a painful and difficult year. The Sisters’ response to the pandemic was wide-ranging. Sr. Katharina Pies and Sr. Kim Kessler worked tirelessly as Chaplains at St. Joseph Manor and Holy Redeemer Hospital.
Sr. Kim often picked up extra shifts when she was able, performing temperature checks of hospital employees as they arrived for work. She welcomed this opportunity to greet the employees and to be a healing and calming presence to them. “I often witnessed various emotions of anxiety, stress, and fear,” said Sr. Kim. “As I thought about each of my sacred encounters with each of them, I thought of the scripture, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ God was allowing me to be a calming presence in the midst of so much uncertainty. I thanked every employee and assured them the Sisters were praying for them every day.”
Additionally, Sr. Martina Nicklaus and several other Sisters and volunteers used their expertise to make hundreds of cloth facemasks and plastic gowns. Sr. Anne Marie Haas and Sr. Anita Bolton serve on the Spiritual Outreach Work group for the Health System, where they work together to provide spiritual support and resources for Health System employees.
The Sisters also witnessed the healing presence of their community garden. “Isolated from the usual events and interactions in their normal lives, people found a place of peace, beauty, and safety in the open space and fields,” said Sr. Ana Dura. “Parents and grandparents brought children to interact with God’s creation. It was an opportunity to get outside and visit the animals and run through the open space.”
The Sisters also launched “Proclaiming Hope: Messages of Hope in a Hurting World,” a campaign of hope-filled messages provided by the Sisters, Redeemer Associates, and Province Center Staff, that were shared on social media accounts and website. “The Messages of Hope are a direct response to the call to be a healing presence during this challenging time,” said Amy Cranston, Director of Marketing and Communication for the Sisters. “We were overwhelmed by the caring and creative Messages of Hope we received, which then, in turn, we were able to share so widely.”
The Sisters continued their Sunday Mass by livestreaming each week on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sistersoftheredeemer) which allows viewers to celebrate Mass with the Sisters, but in a safe, socially-distant manner.
“While what we have experienced this year is unprecedented, I find great comfort in Blessed Alphonse Maria’s words, ‘Have Courage, God is with you,’ said Sr. Ellen Marvel. “As the pandemic continues, the weeks and months to come will be challenging. However, we will move through this time together and be strengthened because of the kindness and compassion shown toward one another.”
(This article originally appeared in the Sisters’ Fall 2020 Proclaiming Hope newsletter)