> Ministering in the Time of COVID-19

Ministering in the Time of COVID-19


The Catholic high school where Sister Mary McCaffrey teaches the sacraments and moral theology is in Westchester County, a coronavirus hotspot from the virus’ early days in New York State. Instruction moved online with a strict schedule — teachers make assignments by 8:00 a.m., students complete work that day and teachers are to have grades to students with the next day’s assignments.

“The first two weeks were difficult,” says Sister Mary who ironically, retired five years ago because she didn’t want to deal with the increasing technology. “I learned not to assign essays. I was up to 1:00 a.m. grading them!”

Sister Mary has 77 students, a “light load” she says. “I guess they take my age into consideration.” Sister turned 90 on April 16.

Students are diligent about completing their assignments. They have Sister Mary’s email address so they can contact her if they have a problem. She answers every question and points out what they should look for in textbooks.

“I don’t mind if they are using their books to complete their assignments. They’re learning and I want them to learn,” she says.

Students, Sister says, are eager to return to school, though she doesn’t see how they can return and maintain proper social distancing. She feels bad for the 220 freshmen scheduled to start in the fall because they are missing spring orientation activities and for all the events and graduation festivities that the senior students won’t have.

“But we can’t bemoan the things we’ve lost,” she tells them. “We have to be grateful for what we have.”