It has been a year since the lockdowns, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders began. At the time of writing, the number of deaths in the United States from COVID-19 stands at 525,000, with many others suffering from extended illness or increased financial insecurity.
The Daughters of Charity Archives has been asked a number of times what we have been doing to capture the Daughters’ work during this crisis. Sisters and close friends of the Daughters are often aware of their ministry during pandemics in the past, including the Spanish flu of a century ago.
While there is little physical work in the field (such as tending to patients), the Daughters remain committed to a great many missions and continue to touch lives. From food distribution to teaching online classes, from assisting immigrants at the border to raising awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, from creating podcasts and virtual tours of a mission’s programs to providing services that ease burdens and offer hope, the Daughters have ensured their ministries alive and thriving in spite of limitations. Any documents, photos, or papers which show their work are still active and are not yet ready to be transferred to the archives. They will arrive one day; however, not just yet.
This does not mean that COVID is completely absent from the collections. We collect the newsletters and magazines of our sponsored works – those operations directly run by the Daughters of Charity organization – along with our own Daughters’ newsletter and as many newspaper clippings and local news reports as we can find.
It is even dificult writing an article like this at this time. Those captured local news stories provide an important glimpse into the Daughters’ work, but they are created and owned by the news station. They can be used on-site at the archives, but we do not own the copyright to share them widely on a space like this blog. Other images show Daughters working with patients, and to share them would directly violate their patients’ privacy. The community newsletters created by the Daughters every week for its members contain important depictions of their work, but they contain personal information that is not allowed to be shared and is restricted to researchers by the archives for 25 years.
We can, however, share materials that were owned or created directly by the Daughters and their subsidiary organizations. For example:
- Sisters Elizabeth Greim and Liz Sjoberg host the official podcast of the Province of St. Louise, where they discuss spirituality, the Church today, and past and present works of the Daughters. COVID has played a role in many of their episodes, but the episode below directly addresses the changes in ministry over the last year. Although it appears these types of new digital media will be available online forever, they can be taken down by their creators at any time, and unless someone takes steps to keep the files safe, they are at high risk of being lost.
It is available at https://subsplash.com/daughtersofcharity/media/mi/+6hv5mk
- The Daughters operate St. Joseph Services in Chicago, which puts out a quarterly newsletter (in both English and Spanish). They discuss the changes that occurred to their programming due to the pandemic and how they continue to serve the city.
- Sister Catherine Marie Lowe discusses working with those experiencing homelessness and providing outreach to those in isolation at St. Patrick’s Center in Wilmington, DE. This video was created by New Castle County Television, and while it is legal for the archives to preserve a captured version of it, we can only make it available onsite. It is, however, legal to embed a Youtube video, so you can view it here for as long as long as the link remains active:
- Seton Center here in Emmitsburg has a virtual prayer wall. The archives began to collect Seton Center’s web presence in June 2020, not aware that the prayer wall was going to be part of the collection. It captures the thoughts and feelings of patrons of Seton Center who are navigating a frightening new time.
When this pandemic has passed, we will be able to answer the question “What did the Daughters do in 2020-21?” For now, archives is collecting COVID-19 mission materials that ensures the Daughters of Charity and their partner organizations will be remembered for what they did for those in need and for those whom they feel blessed to serve.