Monastery of St. Gertrude/Contributed

Sisters from Monastery of St. Gertrude Work to Serve Communities During COVID-19


By Riley Utley

“Prayer awakens. Justice compels. Compassion acts. Thy Kingdom come.”

That is the vision statement at the Monastery of St. Gertrude located in Cottonwood, Idaho. The Sisters who make up this monastery live all over the Pacific Northwest and are working to live out this vision.

Some in health care others in churches and various other professions. They are all doing their part to live out the monastery’s mission: “Healing hospitality, grateful simplicity, creative peacemaking.”

And during a year like 2020 in the midst of a pandemic these women have been using their jobs and faith to find hope and help their communities during the coronavirus.

Sr. Margie Schmidt is the director of pastoral care at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center is Lewiston, Idaho for 15 years and has been with the Monetary of St. Gertrude for 55 years.

Sr. Margie Schmidt

“I never really thought I’d work in health care,” Schmidt said. “I just feel very honored to be here and, and love the hospital love the staff.”

Pulling everyone together and making sure pastoral care runs smoothly is Schmidt’s main job.

Her department mainly takes care of the chapel in the hospital and goes around offering prayer, blessing and support to the patients. However, when the coronavirus began there were no visitors in the hospital and Schmidt had to find new ways to find support for the patients.

“I didn’t realize how much of, I don’t want to say job, but my ministry was talking to families talking to people in the waiting rooms, talking to people in the hallways until they weren’t there,” Schmidt said. “You can spend time with [patients], but many of them you don’t spend a whole lot of time because they’re ill or they’re sleeping or they’re on a ventilator.”

One of the big jobs Schmidt took on was rearranging the hospital’s chapel to fit the coronavirus guidelines. She turned the chairs so they weren’t facing each other and took out any paper or cloth to make the chapel usable.

Both visitors and the staff have been very grateful to have the chapel back and safe to use. 

Since visitors are limited in hospitals Schmidt and the pastoral care team work to make patients comfortable and support them while they’re in the hospital.

“We’re the ones we stay with the family and we’re kind of that liaison between the family and what’s going on in a room if they’re not in there,” Schmidt said. “And if they’re in the room with the patient, we stand by them and pray if they want to.”

She said that especially in a time like this she’s found hope in others. While the pastoral care team gives hope to the patients, the patients also gives hope to the staff.

Even though being in uncharted territory is scary and there are a lot of unknowns with the virus there are still many happy moments to be found every day.

“I hear people laughing in the hallway or I hear people greeting each other and walking down the hall and, waving at each other,” Schmidt said. “That’s kind of a high moment for me. Yeah, that people you know, under hard, hard circumstances they keep working to make people better.”

Sr. Betty Schumacher is a pastoral associate at St. Jude’s Parish in Redmond, Washington. She’s worked there for the past 15 years and has been a part of the Monetary of St. Gertrude for 54 years.

Betty Schumacher
Sr. Betty Schumacher

She spends her days calling those who are sick and especially during this time calling those who are older and may be at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the coronavirus.

Schumacher’s primary job is to oversee the Safe Parking program at the parish. This program allows people to sleep in their cars in the parish parking lot without the fear of being forced to move. They let people stay for a few months so long as the people are working to make a living.

Right now they average about 15 cars a night of single adults and some couples.

“There are two other safe parking programs in the area as we kind of work together,” Schumacher said. “And so that’s been really helpful to know that there are there’s a support system among the three of us. It’s worked well.”

She said she’s found hope in seeing the people of the parish reach out to each other and provide support both to each other and to their church.

“I found is that people were very concerned about Safe Parking,” Schumacher said. “So, during this time, people have been extremely generous with either food or money to support the groups. I’ve just been overwhelmed with the generosity of people who have donated to safe parking.”

She said she didn’t ask for support, but many members of the church asked to pay phone bills and storage bills for those in safe parking or offer prayer to those who had just lost their jobs.

“Most of them are very, very appreciative,” Schumacher said. “And they can’t believe the generosity of people. That’s what I find is that they don’t take it for granted.”

What both women have in common is how they cherish the way people care for each other, especially in a time like this.

“What gave me hope, was listening to stories about how people reached out to one another and made those phone calls make those connections,” Schumacher said. “I wasn’t aware that that happened. You know, it probably wouldn’t in daily life.”

The sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude want to serve the wider community as well as one another and that is what they are doing now through their careers. Especially during this pandemic they have worked hard to maintain their connections through their faith.

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