26 deaths in 3 US convents, as nuns confront the pandemic

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School Sisters of St. Francis

This combination of photos provided by the School Sisters of St. Francis shows Sisters Annelda Holtkamp, Bernadette Kelter, Josephine Seier and Marie June Skender. The nuns, who died from COVID-19 in March and April 2020, had retired years ago. Some moved into the Our Lady of the Angels assisted living facility in Wisconsin, when it opened in 2011. (School Sisters of St. Francis via AP)

LIVONIA, Mich. – At a convent near Detroit, 13 nuns have died of COVID-19. The toll is seven at a center for Maryknoll sisters in New York, and six at a Wisconsin convent that serves nuns with fading memories.

Each community perseveres, though strict social-distancing rules have made communal solidarity a challenge as the losses are mourned.

Only small, private funeral services were permitted as the death toll mounted in April and May at the Felician Sisters convent in Livonia, Michigan — a spiritual hardship for the surviving nuns.

“The yearnings, throughout the pandemic, were to be with our dying sisters and hold our traditional services, funeral Mass and burial, to comfort each other,” said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, a leader of the Felician Sisters of North America.

For weeks the Livonia nuns went without Mass and dined in shifts, only one per table.

Those and other restrictions have eased in recent weeks as regular activities slowly resume.

But strict social-distancing rules remain in effect at the Our Lady of the Angels convent in Greenfield, Wisconsin, which provides memory care for nuns of the School Sisters of St. Francis and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Nearly all communal activities have been suspended since March, and the 40 remaining residents are not allowed to see visitors, said Michael O’Loughlin, communications director for the School Sisters of St. Francis.