At least 15 dead from coronavirus in NY religious orders

shutterstock 1227934009 Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. | URoy/Shutterstock

As New York attempts to weather the coronavirus pandemic, religious orders in the state have been hit hard by the disease, with one order of nuns raising money to offset the cost of added medical expenses.

The Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining, NY, have lost three of their sisters to COVID-19, and another 30 have tested positive for the virus. A total of 10 members of their staff have also tested positive for the coronavirus, and several more sisters have come down with a low-grade fever and are being monitored. 

There are about 300 sisters living at the Maryknoll Center in Ossining, in Westchester County, about 40 miles away from New York City, widely held to be the front line of the epidemic in the United States.

"We remember the beautiful spirits of our Sisters who have been called home to God and pray our other Sisters and Staff will fully recover and return home soon," says the Maryknoll Sisters' website. 

"It remains our top priority to contain this virus as much as we can, to keep our employees and staff at the center safe, and the rest of our Sisters safe. Please know we are doing all we can to face this pandemic head on, and continue to adhere to all procedures advised by the Health Department," they said.

The sisters are requesting donations for "increased expenses for medical care, medical supplies, proper medical grade cleaning services," and other new necessities related to the virus. 

Also in Ossining, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have been similarly stricken by the pandemic. Since the start of April, 10 priests of the order have died. Two had tested positive for COVID-19, and the others were experiencing symptoms of the virus. 

There are 123 Maryknoll priests living in New York, nearly half of the order's 288 total priests. 

Fr. Raymond Finch, the superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, told abc7NY that 15 others had been tested positive for the virus, with three in "very serious condition." 

The Missionaries of Charity, who have a home in the New York City borough of The Bronx, have lost at least two sisters to COVID-19. The Missionaries of Charity did not respond to CNA's request for comment in time for publication.

The Missionaries of Charity were founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta, and are known for their distinctive white-and-blue saris. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, posted a video on Twitter on Tuesday, April 27, describing his experience attending the burial of two Missionaries of Charity the previous Saturday. 

"Two things stuck out," said Dolan, apart from the sadness of the loss of two sisters. Despite the risk of contracting the virus, Dolan was impressed that the sisters had continued on with their charism of serving the poor, and, additionally, he remarked that one of the sisters who died from the virus had been one of the founding members of the religious order. 

At the burial service, the "socially distancing" sisters told Dolan that "we still have our soup kitchen, and the poor and homeless come in every day." 

This, said Dolan, was a sign that while physical church buildings may be closed, "the Church is active in its love and service to others, like those brave sisters who are putting their life on the lines."

Sr. Francesca, one of the two sisters who had died from COVID-19, worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and was one of the founders of the order. 

"We mourn them, we miss those two, but we thank God for the example of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity," said Dolan.

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