Rome Newsroom, Jun 9, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- After an outbreak in the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity motherhouse in northern Italy led half of its sisters to test positive for COVID-19 and nine sisters to die, the last hospitalized sister has been released from the hospital.
“At this moment the whole community has tested negative,” Sister Gabriella Perazzi told the Italian newspaper La Stampa June 8.
A group of Little Missionary Sisters of Charity have been discharged from the local hospital in Tortona, Italy, and 14 others who were placed under quarantine in another residence have also returned to the convent.
However, the sisters said that they are still trying to maintain social distancing within the convent while living together as a community. The sisters attend Mass at a nearby shrine rather than their convent, so that they can have more room to sit at a distance.
“During the lockdown period, all of us missed the live Mass, even if we followed the celebrations on TV and I saw the sisters dedicate even more time to prayer,” Perazzi said.
“The sisters returning from solitary confinement at Mater Dei said it had been like doing a course of spiritual exercises, each in their own room, frightened and grieved by the news that came from the hospital, where a sister died almost every day.”
Hearing of the suffering endured by the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity in Tortona, Pope Francis wrote a letter to their superior general, Mother Mabel Spagnuolo, in May in response to an email she had sent to the pope as Italy remained under lockdown.
Pope Francis wrote: “At this moment we must have courage: courage in prayer and courage in action. I pray for you and for the community; please do not forget to do so for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin guard you.”
The motherhouse in Tortona is closely connected to the order’s founder, St. Luigi Orione (1872-1940), who also founded the Sons of Divine Providence, an order of priests and brothers, dedicated to the care of the elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged.
“Many times as Little Missionary Sisters of Charity we have set ourselves the goal of sharing the lives of the poor and the least, the fragile lives,” Perazzi told Vatican News in March.
After the Red Cross evacuated 18 sisters in the community to a hospital on March 12, the remaining Little Missionary Sisters of Charity were placed under quarantine in another residence.
Sister Gabriella and one other sister remained behind in the motherhouse to tend to six elderly sisters who had not tested positive for the coronavirus, but suffered from other health problems.
“We stayed because these sisters need assistance and our motherhouse is for us a sort of retirement home where the [sisters] come after a life spent in service,” she said.
“At this moment we share the lives of many people, who throughout Italy and all over the world, experience this fragility in the face of something that comes and upsets the life of a family, like that of a religious community,” she said. “I believe that the Lord calls us today to serve here, in this precariousness.”