By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Health and economic hardships brought on by COVID-19 have been felt across the world. To help in the U.S., Catholic Extension launched the Sisters on the Frontlines alliance in late June in response to the pandemic, taking particular care to aid communities disproportionately afflicted by poverty and a lack of resources.
The goal of the initiative is to give 1,000 sisters, $1,000 each to provide rapid response to the poor and distressed. So far, five sisters in the Diocese of Jackson have received funds from through this special program – Sister Lael Niblick and Sister Mary Christine Fellerhoff of St. Helen Amory; Sister Nancy Schreck of Excel in Okalona; and Sister Maria Eugenia Moreno, MGSpS and Obdulia Olivar, MGSpS of St. Michael Forest.
According to Joe Boland, vice president of mission for Catholic Extension, the funds are unrestricted and the process to request and receive funds is simple.
“If they’re engaged in some ministry that is serving the poor — or have access to the poor — they determine how the money will be spent,” Boland said. “They know the ones in their communities, they know the names, the faces, the families. They will be able to deliver it or organize it in such a way that support goes to those who have the greatest need.”
Sister Obdulia, working with Hispanic families in Scott County affected by the ICE raids of Aug. 2019 and now impacted by COVID-19, said “Families to help are many, it was not difficult to identify them. We know what families were impacted by COVID and which ones were in most need of [this] help.”
Boland said that the sisters may serve anywhere, not just the 87 U.S. dioceses in Catholic Extension’s territory. Funding is released as it is raised, and Catholic Extension continues to seek donations to underwrite the program.
The Diocese of Jackson has been blessed by the service of many orders of sisters over the years: The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes, – CSA; Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, MGSpS; School Sisters of Notre Dame, SSND; Sisters of Humility of Mary, CHM; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, RSM; Daughters of Charity, DC; Sisters of Charity of Halifax, SC; Franciscan Sisters, OSF; Sisters of the Living Word, SLW; Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns, OCD; Dominican Sisters of Springfield, OP; Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, FSPA; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, SCN School Sisters of St. Francis, Milwaukee, WI – OSF; Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, SNJM; Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, S.H.Sp.; Union of the Sisters of the Presentation of the BVM, PBVM; and Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis Province – CSJ.
Since the program began in June, 378 sisters have received support from the Sisters on the Frontline grant program and another 622 have requested funds.
Sisters who have received funding are asked to report back to Catholic Extension as to how the funds were used. Catholic Extension will be sharing the sisters’ stories as they are received. To learn more or to donate, visit https://www.catholicextension.org/sisters-on-the-frontlines/.