Enclosed nuns reach out to ease people’s Covid despair

Enclosed nuns reach out to ease people’s Covid despair St Mary's Abbey, Glencairn, Co. Waterford Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

Monasteries around the country have been receiving increased calls from people experiencing despair about the meaning of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Sr Fiachra of St Mary’s Abbey, Co. Waterford, told of calls from “lots of people”, with those living in “apartments in cities” heavily represented.

“I would guess it’s because their usual outlets, such as the gym, swimming pools, and bars have closed,” she said.

They expressed a “futility about life’s meaning”, with the absence of routine making life very difficult to acquire a sense of purpose in the present circumstances.

“A Facebook post about routine we put up at the beginning of the pandemic saw a huge reaction.

“We were astonished at the numbers,” she said.


The post in question featured a picture of, and text from, Mother Abbess Marie Fahy. Likening the lockdown lifestyle to the monastic, she provided practical advice for making the most of the difficult circumstances.

“Keep a strong daily structure: getting up and going to bed at the same time each day; taking your meals around the same time each day,” the Abbess advised.

The post received over 1,500 likes, with over 400 shares.

“These are people looking for purpose since lockdown hit,” Sr Fiachra explained. “All of the sisters are taking the calls, from the length and breadth of the country,” she continued.

Seeing a deeper meaning in this trend, Sr Fiachra commented, “It’s an indication that people are changing lifestyles. God is saying ‘get off the whirligig’.”

St Mary’s Abbey is not the only one to have received an increase of contact from the public – Sr Patrice of Tallow Carmel spoke to this paper of “quite a few calls” from those of all demographics since the beginning of the pandemic, too.

While those suffering from “poverty, unemployment, and uncertainty” featured quite heavily, Sr Patrice found their phones hosting more Leaving Certificate students than anyone else.

These, alongside those seeking employment, occupied the majority of their time on the phones, she said.

However, they also had to comfort many of the bereaved, largely due to Covid-19, according to Sr Patrice.

“These have been difficult times for everyone,” she said.

“It’s not just the low numbers at the funerals, but the very format of them.”


With this being the state of affairs around the country, the nuns weren’t too surprised to find their online prayer facilities swelling with petitions and followers.

Sr Fiachra referred to the number of prayer requests left with them as “ginormous”.

Sr Lucy of the Redemptoristine Sisters, Drumcondra, also spoke of the enormous numbers availing of their online services.

“We had over 70,000 tune in to our livestreams during the month of April,” she said.

“We’re the only monastery in Ireland with a webcam, so we’re unique in that regard.”

She highlighted the livestreamed evening Adoration sessions during Holy week, and the Easter weekend in particular, as being especially busy for them.

With a number of reports confirming that ever-greater numbers of people developed depression, anxiety, and other ailments during lockdown, the enclosed nuns of Ireland continue to cater to the spiritual needs of the country – at a distance.