March 11, 2021

Fourteen Co-sisters Afflicted with the “Coronavirus”

Sr. M. Alessandra Kempf
Quarten, Schwitzerland

Interview with
Sister M. Alessandra Kempf


Towards the end of last year, we Sisters of Mary in Quarten heard that a sister from our house in Weesen, Switzerland had symptoms of the coronavirus. She was tested and received a negative result. That reassured us and the provincial leadership made its usual Christmas visit there. On January 6, the superior of the house in Weesen urgently asked for help: All 14 sisters tested positive as well as some others with disabilities who live there, and some of the staff as well.

Sister M. Alessandra, what happened next?

Our provincial superior asked me in the morning if I would be read to go to Weesen. I immediately answered yes. Let’s go. I wanted to help. There was no question! In the afternoon I was already on my way there. I entrusted everything to the Mother of God and asked her that in my way through my actions I could be of help. –I already had some concerns: How will I manage? I am now seamstress and I have not worked as a nurse for many years? So much has changed! How will my co-sisters react when I suddenly appear? Despite everything, I was filled with joyful expectation: What is in store for me? What can I learn during this time?

First and foremost, what did you do during this time – almost three weeks?

My job was to take care of the sisters: to help with their daily hygiene, bring them food, distribute medicines… Since all the sisters had to stay in their rooms and felt alone, it was also important for me to talk to them and respond to their concerns. The sisters with dementia had to be calmed and I had to take time for them. It was a gift for me that later another co-sister from Quarten came to help. She took over the care.

 What was particularly challenging about your work?

As time went by, almost all of the employees became ill, so we had to work with temporary help and everything was new to all of us. That was a real challenge! In addition, it was not easy for me that I had no idea how the disease would progress in the individual sisters. The clinical picture can change very quickly, and one has to react to it. — Since the chaplain was not allowed to celebrate Holy Mass, we also missed this very much. It was a gift that we were able to celebrate via the Internet.

During this time Sister M. Agath Kobler and the house chaplain died. What effect did that have on you and on the sick sisters?

For me, there are two sides. One side is that we can trust in God’s loving providence; our heavenly Father does not allow anything that is not in His plan. On the other side, I asked myself: Did I do the right thing? What else could we perhaps have done? Sister M. Agath impressed me above all with her cooperation, her willingness to take one step after the other. When asked in the hospital if she had a wish, she replied: that I can say yes! – When our sick sisters heard about her going home, the reaction was different. Of course, we all realized the seriousness of the situation! In spite of everything: I marveled at how the sisters also saw this death in the light of God. 

What positive experiences did you have with this extraordinary task?

Our good Lord and the Blessed Mother gave me very much: The employees welcomed me naturally, gratefully, and positively. The temporary workers were mostly young women, and I was impressed by the way they tackled the work as a matter of course and with joy. It was also beautiful for me that my sick co-sisters were happy we from Quarten were there. A happy surprise for me was that I still love my former profession and it gives me much joy.

After your mission with our sisters in Weesen, you tested positive for the coronavirus. You had to go into quarantine for 10 days. What was this experience like?

There are two sides to this as well: I had the chance to process what I had experienced during my time in Weesen and to give it back to God and the Blessed Mother. To lose two fellow human beings in this short time is not easy. It was also a gift that I could come to inner peace in this way. The past three weeks were intense and it took much energy. The other side: Over time it was a bit too lonely for me after the prior filled the days. But my co- sisters were so nice and phoned again and again!!! Yes, and now I really look back on this mission with gratitude. I certainly will not soon forget these days with my co-sisters who were afflicted with the coronavirus!!