Students continue to impact communities during pandemic

By Tim Puet, Columbus Catholic Times Reporter


Sr. Ann Schmidt opens her “Adopt-A-Sister” package from the Our Lady of Peace School.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected different groups of people in myriad ways during the past 10
months. Perhaps the most drastic impact has been felt by those caring for the sick on the front lines and those who have been forced to stay separate and isolated from others.

For religious sisters, the pandemic has kept them from much of their in-person ministry because of
safe distance requirements. Because many sisters are in the age group most susceptible to the virus, a number of sisters have stayed in their convents since mid-March 2020.

For health care workers, the 10-month period has been a time of unprecedented stress as hospitals have been stretched to their limits to handle the increase in admissions resulting from the pandemic.
Students in two diocesan schools have recognized the needs of these groups and have been reaching out to let them know they are appreciated and to give them encouragement as they continue to deal with the effects of the disease.

Columbus Our Lady of Peace School is taking part in an “adopt-a-sister” program for members of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, whose motherhouse is in Columbus and is home to 76 sisters.

Grove City Our Lady of Perpetual Help School has developed “Operation Gratitude,” a program recognizing people who are working on the front lines of health care at Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital.

Laura Baird, the parent of an Our Lady of Peace student, and Gaye Reissland, a member of Our Lady of Peace Church, began the initiative to help the sisters.

“Gaye was helping the sisters dec- orate for Christmas and doing other projects at the motherhouse,” Baird said. “She told the school’s Home and School Association (HSA) that some sisters had not been out of the building since March and could use something for Christmas to brighten their spirits.

“I got in touch with the sisters at the motherhouse and learned what they would like. The HSA then put together gift boxes with things like Christmas candy, hot chocolate and wine, along with notes telling the sisters we were thinking of them. More than 20 Our Lady of Peace families took part,
along with two families from Columbus Holy Spirit School.”

“Laura suggested that families adopt a sister for Christmas, and I thought my fourth-grade class could act as a family,” said Our Lady of Peace teacher Sheri Magee. “We adopted Sister Anne Keenan, OP, and sent her a letter and some artwork. She sent a letter back and we responded by sending her a gift card, a blanket and some chocolate.

“We’re creating some more art for her and the other sisters and planning some Zoom time so we can talk to each other. Now that sisters aren’t as familiar a sight in schools as they once were, it’s great to have students talk with them and see the important role the sisters and their vocation play in the life of the Church.”

Recipients of the boxes included Sister Carol Ann May, OP, and Sister Shawn Fitzpatrick, OP.

Sr. Carol Ann May was touched and surprised by her gift from Our Lady of Peace.

“I was not aware of what the ‘adopt-a-sister’ program would be when it began,” Sister Carol Ann said. “I was so touched by the graciousness, the generosity and the kindness of the families that took part. Having these people praying for us and remembering us during this time of isolation was just what I needed during the Christmas season. It was just perfect.”

“Much to my surprise, the person who adopted me was one of my former first-grade students at Our Lady of Peace,” Sister Shawn said. “It was so surprising and such a blessing to reconnect with this person that I remembered as a little child, now grown up and still in the Church.”

In Grove City, the staff and students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School have cultivated a relationship with the Mount Carmel Health organization that opened a medical center there in 2014. The relationship expanded when the city’s first full-service hospital was opened by Mount Carmel in 2018.

As part of their Operation Gratitude initiative, “families at the school filled packages of snacks and
drinks for caregivers at the hospital who often don’t have time to enjoy a meal break,” said Brad Allen, the school’s enrollment coordinator.

Students made cards with special messages to be included with the packages, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioners have been sharing virtual messages of thanks and motivation to hospital workers.

Volunteers from the school and church have committed to standing outside the hospital to clap nurses, doctors, and staff in and out during four separate shift changes. Parishioners also have been encouraged to support Mount Carmel’s street medicine program with monetary donations.

“With Operation Gratitude, Our Lady of Perpetual Help families have found a way to say ‘thank you’
and give back to those health care workers who have labored and sacrificed so much,” Allen said.

Diocesan Superintendent of schools Adam Dufault praised the two schools’ service efforts, saying,
“Service to others is a foundational part of our Catholic faith. The work being done at OLP and OLPH and so many other Catholic schools is putting our faith into action for the betterment of our community.”

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