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Christmastime at OLV Amid COVID 19
By Sister Jeanne Marie Toriskie

The OLV Nativity Scene

Each December, Sister Francis Clare sets up the large nativity scene on the left side of the chapel where it replaces the Advent wreaths as Christmas Eve approaches. This year of 2020, however, the nativity scene found a new place, in the front of the chapel, near the towering lit Christmas trees. Its new location allowed the fixed chapel camera to transfer its image to the COVID-bound Sisters and residents of the Franciscan Village campus via channel 29.

On the infrequent winter days when the sun shone in the Sacred Heart chapel, the camera captured the gleaming colors of the display, comforting the hearts of all with the joy of the incarnation.

As the New Year dawned, national television news continued to transmit word of increasingly high COVID case numbers, word of even more resilient and infectious COVID virus strains, and word of an unprecedented mob attack on the Capitol building temporarily disrupting the final step in the electoral process. In happy contrast, the presence of the eternal Word, so highly visible on closed circuit television, gave the real perspective that God is indeed among us, providing "comfort and joy."

The Epiphany House Blessing Tradition

On the Epiphany, it is traditional to ask God’s blessing on our homes. The current year and initials of the legendary names of the Magi (Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar) are marked above the main doorway. Often the blessing is written in chalk directly above the door. While placing this blessing above the doorway of our home, we say: "May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve Christ in everyone we meet. Amen."

The Epiphany Blessing of OLV

To provide additional comfort and joy, Sister Bernadette approved the creation of a new version of the traditional Epiphany blessing of Our Lady of Victory Convent. Sister Helene worked her computer magic on the old version while Sisters Emilie Marie and Jeanne Marie worked on it to make it compliant with the COVID restrictions of wearing masks, social distancing, and no large gatherings.

At 10:45 AM on Sunday, January 3, 2021, Chaplain Fr. Bob Lucas conducted the blessing service via the public address system to all the Sisters on the second floor of Our Lady of Victory convent. He then blessed the two main entrances to the building with holy water, and, with the assistance of Sisters Emilie Marie and Jeanne Marie, he placed the sign of the Three Kings above both doorways. Then the blessing team moved up to the second floor to bless each Sister’s room.

The infirmary staff had everything in readiness for the blessing. Each Sister sat in her room at least six feet back from the doorway. As Father Bob approached with holy water to bless her and her room, he was greeted with an enthusiastic smile. From the doorway Sister Jeanne Marie presented the sign of the Three Kings to the view of the Sister resident while Sister Emilie Marie prepared the adhesive tape for Father to affix the sign above the room’s doorway.

Quickly the blessing team moved from room to room, blessing all. Meanwhile a CD of Christmas carols continued to stream through the public address system. At the conclusion of the blessing, lunch was served to the individual Sister’s room.

The Epiphany Blessing Goes Forth

At 1 PM, after dinner, the OLV Sisters who live in the coach houses blessed their own homes and put up the sign of the Three Kings above their home’s main entrance.

Due to the positive response to the blessing signs, Sister Bernadette asked Sister Jeanne Marie to make the signs available to our Sisters who live off campus, to the FSC Associates, to the infirmary staff, and to the Unidine staff. Dozens of printed signs were shared locally, while email carried the sign’s template to others across the Midwest. As the sign proclaims, "May Christ bless this dwelling place." May that blessing travel throughout the world to all dwelling places, bringing peace in this New Year of 2021.