Shining light on the role of religious women as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the embassies of the United States and Great Britain at the Vatican honored their sacrifices in an online symposium. Titled “Religious Women on the Frontline,” the event was organized by US Ambassador Callista Gingrich and her British Counter, Sally Axworthy.
According to Axworthy, religious sisters are an army willing to do good. However, the pandemic caused unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity, which are major challenges in the work of religious women. (Read: Pope Francis Appoints Women for Top Posts in the Vatican)
During the symposium, three frontliner nuns shared their experiences of caring for the disabled and elderly, fighting sexual abuse, and dealing with the coronavirus. (Read: Catholic Nun on Rape Culture: ‘Stop Victim Blaming’) By giving them the floor, the diplomats were able to “honor the memory” of nuns who have their lives during the pandemic. The symposium also highlighted their sacrifice to care for the weakest.
Sister Therese Mario Mumuni
These weakest include the newborn babies with disabilities in Ghana cared for by Sister Therese Mario Mumuni. Because of local beliefs in her area, disabled children’s lives are endangered because physical and mental disabilities are considered a bad omen. Sister Therese founded the Marian Sisters for Eucharistic Love for them. (Read: Pope Francis recognizes the significant efforts of women in the COVID-19 crisis)
However, because of the unexpected challenges from the coronavirus, the school for disabled children had to shut down. The frontliner nun had to take them in and feed them. Parents who lost their job were tempted to sell their kids to traffickers.
Sister Imelda Poole
Sister Imelda Poole, meanwhile, said that trafficking has already affected 40 million victims worldwide, which became worst because of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Sister Imelda is the founding nun of Mary Ward Loreto, an association fighting trafficking. She collaborates with the Religious Network in Europe Against Trafficking and Exploitation, advocating for stronger legislation. (Read: 5 Influential Filipina Women Who Prove Hard Work Pays Off)
The crisis places thousands of young people, particularly young women, at risk of being trafficked. And because many children are at home during quarantines and lockdowns, they are much more exposed to the many dangers on the internet.
Sister Alicia Vacas
Sister Alicia Vacas is a frontliner nun based in the epicenter of the pandemic in Italy. She is a nurse and provincial superior of the Comboni sisters. She said that of the 60 nuns in this community, 45 were sick and 10 died. Most of the staff were infected which led to chaos as there was no one to nurse the sick, cook, clean, or do the laundry. (Read: Four Women Who Give Love and Guidance Like Real Mothers Do)
The younger nuns dedicated themselves to care for the older ones. Other congregations around the world helped them by sending them personal protective equipment.