By Katie Beckmann Mahon, Communications Manager
When Sr. Jeanine Conlon, OP, said goodbye to the students of St. Charles School on Staten Island on March 13th, she only thought it would be for a few weeks.
Never did she think, the next time she would see her students would be the following September.
“You didn’t believe such a thing could happen, but it did,” commented Sr. Jeanine, a Sister of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York.
Along with saying goodbye to her students, Sr. Jeanine was also forced to temporarily pause some of her ministry responsibilities at St. Charles Church on Staten Island.
“It’s hard because you can’t visit parishioners and those in need who are in nursing homes and hospitals.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Sr. Jeanine dealt with some personal hardships as her sister in Florida got sick, and a local pastor from a neighboring parish passed away from Coronavirus.
“It was a wakeup call for us. That was very close to home for us.”
Despite these hardships, Sr. Jeanine also shared how her local community was able to come together and adapt to the new challenges faced by the pandemic.
“There has been a lot of praying and more of a focus for others. We have all been encouraging and helping those who are having a hard time.”
Sr. Jeanine has also seen positive changes in the youth in her community since the beginning of the pandemic.
“A lot of young people have become more prayerful. They realize that they need God.”
Along with this sense of unity and the emergence of prayer for young people, Sr. Jeanine was happy to see the church’s ability to embrace technology to reach parishioners.
“The technology and being able to watch mass on television was great. When our parish started to stream mass, it was nice and made me feel connected to other parishioners.”
Since July, Sr. Jeanine has transitioned from watching mass on television back to attending services in person, as well as ministering at the rectory and school, in person.
“It’s been a nice thing to see regular faces at our morning, weekday, and weekend masses. Each week, it’s been getting more crowded, and I think once school is open, we will welcome back even more people.”
St. Charles School will be welcoming back students soon on a hybrid schedule where children will be attending both in-person and remote classes.
As the school year begins, Sr. Jeanine hopes to continue to be “upbeat” and inspire those around her “to be kind and help others.”
She added, “Everyone has a story, and we need to be aware of what we can do to help them. If we just listened, we can appreciate others more and not take them for granted. Everyone sometimes needs a smile and a kind word. Even though times are tough, we need to be gentle with others and remember those who are in need.”