Global group of women religious superiors calls for March 22 day of prayer

The International Union of Superiors General is calling for a global day of prayer and solidarity on Sunday, March 22, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Now is the time for each one of us to respond to the worldwide coronavirus crisis by being in solidarity with others, especially with those who are most vulnerable and most at risk," Sr. Jolanda Kafka, the president of the Rome-based worldwide organization of the superiors general of institutes of Catholic women, said in a March 19 announcement.

"It is the time to follow the directives provided by the World Health Organization and our respective governments," she added. "We therefore invite all the member congregations of UISG to make next Sunday 22nd March a day of worldwide solidarity and prayer especially for all those directly affected."

Accompanying the statement were video links of Kafka speaking in English, Italian and Spanish. Kafka, who is Polish, is the superior general of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, Claretian Missionaries.

March 22: Day of Worldwide Solidarity and Prayer: Sr Jolanta Kafka's message

The announcement comes as other sister groups and congregations are canceling or postponing planned conferences and meetings.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest group of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States, said earlier this week that all meetings and workshops planned through June 30 have been canceled.

At the same time, in its April newsletter, LCWR said its annual assembly, scheduled for Aug. 11-14, was still on, but that given "the global health crisis and its potential impact on the 2020 LCWR assembly," the organization "will monitor the situation carefully to determine whether to hold the assembly. At this point, it is too soon to make any decision."

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders, LCWR spokesperson, told GSR through an email that LCWR members are "working night and day to get all the necessary protocols in place to care for their members."

"The great majority of women religious today are in their later years, so most leaders are very concerned about getting everything in place in their motherhouses and healthcare facilities to keep their sisters and employees as safe as possible. This seems to be the primary task of all leaders at the moment."

As an example of efforts by sisters to take cautionary steps, the Michigan-based Adrian Dominican Sisters said in a March 13 statement that it had suspended all congregation-related travel "as well as meetings, conferences, and gatherings involving travel by its 533 sisters, 206 associates and nearly 300 co-workers."

Also suspended were any personal travel by sisters "to areas where the virus has been reported and participation anywhere in social or other events involving larger groupings of people," as well as workshops and programs sponsored or hosted by the congregation's retreat and conference center.

In addition, any visits by off-campus guests to the congregation's motherhouse and retirement facility have also been suspended.

Administrators and lay leaders are meeting daily, the congregation said, "to monitor the pandemic and to develop effective mitigation protocols and implement new measures as needed. As conditions warrant, these suspensions may be modified in the coming days and/or extended beyond the end of March."

In a letter to community members announcing what it called "prudential preventative action," congregational administrators said the measures were "for the common good of our own community and the larger communities in which we live and serve." 

Like UISG, the Adrian Dominican Sisters said it is joining "with people around the world in prayer for the victims of the coronavirus, their families, and all healthcare workers who are courageously serving on the frontlines of this pandemic."

Read all of GSR's coverage of the new coronavirus.