Teaching order of sisters asks for prayers for members living under ‘full room quarantine,’ honors deceased as virus takes heavy toll
LIVONIA — Eleven Felician Sisters died in the month of April at the religious community’s central convent in Livonia, and at least seven of those deaths involved sisters who had been ill with COVID-19.
The Felician Sisters of North America, based in Beaver Falls, Pa., acknowledged the deaths at the Felicians’ Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Livonia in a public statement May 4.
The teaching and service-oriented religious community, formally known as the Congregation of Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi, has been hit especially hard by the virus, which is reported to be particularly dangerous to older people. The average age of the sisters who died in April was 85.
“This week, the Lord called one more of our Sisters home due to the effects of coronavirus, and we continue to mourn her and the other Sisters we have lost,” Sr. Mary Christopher Moore, CSSF, provincial minister for the Felician Sisters of North America, wrote May 4. “We remain thankful that the virus has not spread to any additional convents.”
Sr. Moore asked for prayers for the sisters, those affected and those caring for the sisters, and “the few who remain hospitalized.”
She added the community remains “hypervigilant” against the coronavirus, including “full room quarantine” and individual meals on trays with disposable dishes and utensils.
The sisters who died represent a cross-section of the Felician Sisters’ myriad ministries, including teachers, nurses, organists, tutors, college professors, multilingual translators, religious education directors, and even a secretary in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. They are (click below for each sister’s obituary):
- Sr. Celine Marie Lesinski, CSSF, 92
- Sr. Mary Alice Ann Gradowski, CSSF, 73
- Sr. Mary Clarence Borkoski, CSSF, 83
- Sr. Mary Janice Zolkowski, CSSF, 86
- Sr. Mary Martinez Rozek, CSSF, 87
- Sr. Mary Patricia Pyszynski, CSSF, 93
- Sr. Rose Mary Wolak, CSSF, 86
- Sr. Thomas Marie Wadowski, CSSF, 73
- Sr. Victoria Marie Indyk, CSSF, 69
- Sr. Mary Luiza Wawrzyniak, CSSF, 99
- Sr. Mary Estelle Printz, CSSF, 95
At least seven of the sisters who died had contracted COVID-19, the congregation said, among the 22 sisters who have tested positive for the virus at the Livonia convent.
“It’s devastating. It’s heart-breaking,” Karen Sanborn, a spokeswoman for the Felician-run Madonna University, told Bridge Michigan for a May 4 story.
Sr. Moore said as the sisters endure the harsh isolation that’s necessary to combat the spread of the virus, it’s a manifestation of the order’s mission to serve others in all circumstances.
“For us as Sisters, our greatest loss on a daily basis is the communal life that is at the heart of the Felician charism,” Sr. Moore said. “We naturally gather five times a day — in the morning for prayer and Mass, in the evening for prayer and rosary, and three times for meals.”
“We mourn the loss of that daily sharing, but we look at the need for public health, and know that Blessed Mary Angela would tell us, ‘Serve where you are needed,’” Sr. Moore continued. “So the common good of public health is our ministry right now, for the good of each other, our employees, our communities, the nation and the world.”
She said the order wants to honor “our Sisters who are bravely dealing with COVID-19, as well as the nurses, nursing assistants, cooks, dietary aides, housekeepers, maintenance employees and enrichment coordinators who provide (their) care.”
Staff have continued to brighten the sisters’ day by bringing flowerpots and meals to those in quarantine, providing Mass on closed-circuit television and participating with the sisters in “spiritual communion,” as many Catholics have done in the absence of public Mass.
Sr. Moore said the Felicians have been in constant communication with local, state and provincial health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control, and have received personal protective equipment from the Livonia Department of Emergency Management as well as from the Marywood Nursing Care Center and Angela Hospice, two Felician-run ministries in Livonia.
Memorials have poured in for the sisters who have recently died.
Sr. Wadowski, a teacher for 19 years at Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake; St. Hilary, Redford; St. Michael, Southfield; St. Damian Westland; and St. Michael, Livonia, inspired Sara Sanders to stand up for those without a voice, Sanders said.
“I’m so grateful for the time I had with you from making sure I colored in the lines to always speaking up for the injustices I see,” Sanders wrote. “You shaped me into the person I am today.”
Debra Kozer said Sr. Printz was her “favorite teacher” as a student at Ladywood High School in Livonia. “Her business classes were the best, shorthand, typing and office practice,” Kozer said.
Sr. Indyk, a nurse who served at St. Mary Hospital and taught at Madonna University, also spent several years serving the poor at Detroit’s Cabrini Clinic and through medical mission trips to Haiti, a cause that was dear to her heart.
“Sr. Victoria was one of the most beautiful, energetic and devoted women I know,” Betty Monnette wrote. “Her smile was infectious, her devotion was inspirational and her love for the Haitian people was unsurpassed.”
Memorial services for the deceased sisters will take place at a later date at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Livonia.
For individual obituaries for each of the sisters, click on their names above.