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Michigan diocese mourns as nine nuns die from coronavirus

Adrian_Dominican_Sisters_Motherhouse_Adrian_Michigan.jpeg The motherhouse of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Adrian, Mich. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Lansing.

The Diocese of Lansing offered its condolences and prayerful support after the coronavirus hit a religious retirement home this month and nine nuns died.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing issued a statement Jan. 28 expressing sorrow over the deaths and emphasizing the valuable role the nuns have played in the community.

“With great regret, I was informed today of the death of nine of our Adrian Dominican Sisters due to COVID-19. May they rest in peace. It is all the more bittersweet to learn of this sad news upon the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, usually a day of great festivity for the Dominican order,” said Boyea.

“I would like to assure Sister Patricia Siemen, Prioress, and all the Adrian Dominican community of my sympathy, prayers and support in the days and weeks to come. Saint Dominic, pray for them.”

The women lived at the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, which is located about 75 miles away from Detroit. More than 200 retired nuns live in Adrian.

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According to Fox 2 Detroit, the convent has been struck with 46 positive cases of COVID-19. So far, 25 nuns have recovered but there are still 12 nuns with active symptoms.

The nine nuns who died in January were between the ages of 79 and 97.

According to Fox 2 Detroit, Prioress Siemen said a majority of the victims had underlying health problems that were made worse by the virus. She said, while the convent has strictly followed quarantine and pandemic protocol, the virus still reached the community.

"It slips in. That’s the heartache of this virus," Siemen said.

"We’ve had no guests on campus. Our sisters have not seen their family members. They haven’t even seen our other sisters who live off campus since this started in the middle of March. And yet that virus is very sneaky."

The Adrian Dominican Sisters, also known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary, were founded in 1923. The order has 507 sisters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines.

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The retired nuns have involved themselves in the community’s pastoral life, education, and health. Bishop Boyea said this religious community has been integral to Adrian’s Catholic faith for over a century and, “hence, they are well-known and much-loved by many within the Diocese of Lansing.”

The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued a statement Jan. 14. She said the protection of its employees and religious members is the primary concern and emphasized the organization’s commitment to stop the spread of the virus.

“After more than nine months of no cases of COVID-19 among resident Sisters, we are now experiencing an outbreak among both Sisters and Co-workers at the Dominican Life Center. The care and safety of our Sisters and Co-workers have been and remains our primary concern,” she said.

“Our prayers rise like incense for all impacted by this global health crisis: the sick and dying, their families, and all healthcare workers and people everywhere who generously and selflessly provide essential services to each and every one of us. Please join us in this prayer.”

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