Our first wish is that all of you, both Brothers and lay Marists, are well, safe, and sound. May the Lord and his Good Mother bless and keep you close during this difficult time.
We thought we’d write to let you know how we are getting along in this era of Corona! Life here at Champagnat Hall has had its challenges. It hasn’t been easy getting accustomed to social distancing and all that it entails: masks, only one person in the elevator at a time, different seating arrangements in chapel and the dining room, and no visitors (including our Chaplains who celebrated our weekday and Sunday vigil Masses).
While conditions improve in surrounding areas, some of the restrictions we have been under are slowly lifting. In mid-July we relaxed the rule regarding the use of masks, and they are no longer required to be worn by Brothers inside the house. We do still insist they need to be worn if we are outside walking around the Mount St. Michael property.
Visitors are still restricted from coming inside the house, but family members and friends are able to meet outside in the Garth, as long as they continue to sit at least six feet apart and wear a face mask as added precautions. Restrictions such as wearing masks while in the house and daily temperature checks are still in place for our kitchen and house staff.
As for the Brothers living in community here, maintaining a safe distance when interacting and limiting the number of people who can be in the elevator or in the PT room at time still must be observed. Maintaining a safe distance from others is not an easy thing to do when your whole life has been centered around living in community. But we go on… because we know it works! We are still COVID free! And all of us want to keep it that way.
Our scariest moment in this COVID journey came in the Spring when one Brother experienced chills and a fever. As a precaution, we all retreated to our rooms for a two week quarantine, even taking meals there three times a day. Happily, nothing serious came of the fever, but, the event made us all realize this virus is like nothing we have seen before and we need to take it seriously. Our lives depend upon it.
We’ve become accustomed to many changes — doctor visits via a computer screen, longer hair, regular washing of hands with soap and hand sanitizer — just to name a few. For a long while, Brothers ate their meals in two sections, with only two Brothers at each of the five dining room tables at a time. We also have done away with self-serve mealtimes, and meals are served by gloved staffmembers. This decision was made to limit overcrowding at the serving table and to help stop the spread of germs. Recently, we made the transition to having three Brothers per table in the dining room, which allows all of the Brothers in the community to eat in the dining room at one time. It also has helped to increase conversations during meals.
Our daily Mass has been temporarily replaced by communion services, and thanks to our new Smart TV that we have set up in the chapel, we can participate in masses that are streamed over the internet. Luckily, Msgr. Brennan has been keeping us supplied with the Eucharist, which he consecrates regularly at his retirement home. He and the Priests he lives with are also under their own quarantine restrictions! The Smart TV also allowed us to join in on special prayer services and events Pope Francis has presided over during this time of the pandemic.
Evening prayer continues Monday through Friday with adoration available every day, and Sunday evenings are reserved for the Rosary. Besides these weekly services, we have had special services devoted to the “healing of racism” and an end to the violence we have witnessed around the United States. Occasionally we include new prayers and litanies in our prayers to help us cope with the confusion, sickness, and deaths brought on by this pandemic.
Recently, an evening prayer was devoted to a memorial service for our Brother, Leo Shea. We, as we are sure you, were saddened by his death, and he will be immensely missed by the entire Champagnat Hall community. He was and continues to be an excellent role model of what it means to be a Marist religious. Although hampered by chronic illness, Leo never lost his smile or his engaging sense of humor. May Leo rest in peace.
We continue to have a few recreation options open to us. To the delight of our Brothers, our bi-weekly Bingo game (which we had to put on hold for a while) is again is again being enjoyed every Tuesday and Thursday. Instead of setting up in the community room, we now “call Bingo” in our dining room where it is easier to practice social distancing. The Brothers take the game VERY seriously!
We have also watched m any entertaining movies: The Two Popes, On Golden Pound, Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men (no pun intended), Moon Struck, and most recently, Airplane – a silly comedy that made us all lighthearted. A few weeks ago, we were treated to a special free performance of The Phantom of the Opera that steamed over the internet. Although we no longer have a social gathering after evening prayer, we can and do visit with each other at meals and sometimes in our rooms. The Marist Brothers are never lost for words!
We remain interested in Province affairs and have been visited by Br. Pat and Br. Dan, who, like others, meet with us outside. Our physical therapist Laura is here two days a week to keep the Brothers limber and moving around during this difficult time. She even held a bean-bag-toss contest outside in the Garth.
This year we also celebrated two Brothers who reached the age of 90: Phil Robert and Kevin Moran. They join Gerry Cormier and Joe Teston, who now form an exclusive club in the house: nonagenarians!
So, life continues at Champagnat Hall as we come to grips with this “new normal.” Our nursing staff and health aides continue to keep a vigilant watch over our health. Larry, our house manager, along with our cleaning and maintenance staff, continue to keep us clean, safe ,and well supplied with what we need to run the house. Our kitchen staff, which has had its share of COVID-19 scares and quarantines, keeps us well fed. Our community leaders have blessed us with sterling, generous, compassionate, and creative leadership. They are wonderful servant leaders.
While many regions and establishments around NY state are opening up, sadly other states are experiencing increases in their infection rates. This remains a cause of concern as the spread of the virus continues.
To be cautious, Champagnat Hall will continues to remain in quarantine. After all, our Brothers fall into the most vulnerable segment of our society for contracting the virus. It looks like anti-viral drugs and a vaccine are still many months away. Unfortunately, we will not be able to host any summer visitors this year.
When will we be able to welcome visitors with ease as we have in the past? Our nursing staff reviews CDC guidelines for nursing homes on a regular basis and they, in consultation with Dr. Guerrino (our primary care doctor who continues to monitor our care), will determine when it is safe for us to open our doors to others.
We look forward to seeing all of you again soon. You are all in our prayers, thoughts, and hearts. God bless all of you and those whom you love.
Stay safe, and continue doing what you can to keep it safe for yourselves and those around you.