Pandemic changes daily lives of Servants of Mary

LexiKetcham

For more than seven months, the day-to-day lives of the Servants of Mary have changed in the ways they do typical things. The continuous spread of COVID-19 has inhibited them from carrying out their favorite activities such as going out to eat, shopping for new clothes or going to their favorite Omaha attractions. However, it hasn’t stopped them from their faith-filled mission to pray for and minister to the community, advocate for social justice causes and devote themselves to the Blessed Mother Mary.

Sr. Peggy Miller, Sr. Margaret Buchta and Sr. Joan Houtekier stand together in the Advancement Offices on third floor.

Sr. Peggy Miller ‘65, who entered the Servants of Mary in 1967, has felt the effects of COVID-19 while being confined to the Advancement and Business Offices at Marian and her home, since she doesn’t live in the Mother-house Convent. “It’s hard knowing I can’t go out and do what I would like,” Miller said. She misses going to the Henry Doorly Zoo and ushering at the Omaha Community Playhouse, as well as not being able to shop for the new clothes she’s in need of. “It isn’t that I do these things very often, but I don’t have the freedom to do them now, and I find that hard,” Miller said. In addition, Sr. Peggy has been attending Zoom sessions for her Marian classmates book club and college group. 

Along with Miller, Sr. Joan Houtekier has experienced missing out on typical activities. She has been a Servant of Mary for 58 years and is the Bereavement Minister for Marian’s alumnae. Her weekly responsibilities in this position previously included attending four to six funerals and  visitations per week for lost loved ones of alumnae in order to extend support from the Marian community. Because she lives at the Convent, she is no longer able to attend services due to living with Sisters who are more susceptible to COVID-19. Instead, she now calls or sends cards to the alumnae.

Sr. Margaret Buchta, a member of the Servants of Mary since 1965, is now learning new things in the Advancement Office. She has enjoyed learning new things and taking on projects, although she misses seeing students while supervising study halls and lunches as a teacher  assitstant prior to COVID-19. “It is fun, and every day when I come to Marian, I am open to what the day will present,” Buchta said. She has discovered new smart phone tricks with the help of her family, friends and community. 

The Servites have not been able to visit the seven Sisters who live at the Fontenelle Home where they receive skilled care. “We do try to call them and/or FaceTime with them, but I miss going to visit them,” Houtekier said. Many Servites, along with students and faculty in the building, are also unable to visit their family members who live out of town.

Daily Mass no longer occurs in the Convent, but liturgies are held by a priest on Sundays without singing due to the fact that it can spread COVID-19. Sr. Peggy and Sr. Margaret, who would plan, play guitar and lead the music for Mass, are no longer able to do so at this time. 

The Servite Sisters in the Congo have not been subjected to the virus as much as other areas in the Congo because there is less travel between cities there. Sr. Monique, who is from the Congo, is still in Omaha at this time due to travel restrictions. The Sisters in England and France are also quarantined, in addition to wearing masks and social distancing. 

In light of current events, the Servants of Mary have found some positive aspects of the pandemic. Sr. Peggy has done more phone and FaceTime visits to stay connected with others. Every Sunday, the Servites FaceTime a sister who used to live with them and now lives in Detroit.

Sr. Joan has found extra time to read and has tried to walk outdoors more. “I have enjoyed watching the changes in nature this past spring, summer and now autumn,” she said.

Sr. Margaret has done more cooking than ever before and has developed barbecuing skills with the help of her brother through phone calls. She continues to take time for prayer and growth.

“Take the time to enjoy your family and your daily surroundings since our pace has slowed down a little. Appreciate the things you have taken for granted in the past,” Sr. Joan said to the Marian community.

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