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Presence is a word we use often as FSM. It is at the center of our mission – to be the presence of the loving, serving, compassionate, healing Jesus. In this time when we cannot be physically present with one another, it is especially important to remember what presence means to us: presence is a way of living in the world that encourages encounter. It is who and how we are, regardless of what we are doing.

The ministry of our sisters has long been to bring a healing presence to those in need. The first of our sisters served along St. Louis riverfront streets and at bedsides in crowded tenement houses. They provided medical services to patients of all backgrounds, irrespective of their ability to pay.

Our congregation grew in number, trained healthcare professionals, and founded hospitals. Our sisters served with courage in the most uncertain of circumstances, as contagious diseases like cholera and influenza swept through communities, because their calling was to presence and care.

Medical professionals and frontline workers continue today, courageously putting their own lives on the line to serve our neighbors, heal the ill, and comfort the suffering. We have a special understanding of their sacrifice and the deepest gratitude for all they are doing to address the pandemic we face today.

Though the current reality of our congregation no longer involves our own physical presence as nurses and caregivers, we “continue courageously” in the legacy of those who came before us, using our presence – through resources, relationships and prayer – to care for others. Our sisters are praying and are always taking in specific prayer requests here.

We focus our presence on the compassionate care of creation in collaboration with others – many of you – remaining especially attentive to the needs of marginalized communities facing the impacts of climate change, environmental injustice and food inequity.

We know those same communities are most vulnerable to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. We remember this as we take initial steps to provide emergency relief to our collaborators and their communities, in addition to our regular philanthropic giving.

In our local area, we have supported the efforts of the HOSCO Foods team, who is preparing meals and delivering food to St. Louis seniors and families who are especially in-need while students are out of school and many people are out of work.

In the Chicago area, we have contributed to an emergency response fund anchored by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization to aid the grassroots organizations protecting their communities – who already face disparately severe environmental hazards – from heightened threats to their health.

We’re also making several non-competitive, small grants available to support “Just Culture” – the health and well-being of the leaders, staff and volunteers of organizations. Even in times of stability, individuals working at mission-driven nonprofit organizations face significant financial, emotional, and interpersonal stresses, and we recognize the importance of funds dedicated specifically to addressing those internal challenges. After supporting as many near-term needs as we can among an initial subset of our grantees, we plan to continue to promote such a Just Culture through additional funding opportunities and advocacy into the future.

Many of our collaborators are handling major unforeseen challenges due to the pandemic. Important events and meetings are being canceled, staff and volunteers are facing significant difficulties at home such as the sudden loss of childcare or additional income, and the communities around us are experiencing similar, growing needs. Our collaborator organizations in the St. Louis area may find this resource hub compiled by WEPOWER, Arch City Defenders, and Clark-Fox Family Foundation helpful. The National Council of Nonprofits also provides good readings and resources for nonprofits at this time.

At this pivotal moment, we encourage all to model community by contributing what you can and leaning on others when needed. We expect this crisis to be prolonged and unlike anything we’ve experienced, but not unlike crises experienced by those who came before us. We will look to their legacy of compassionate care, courageous service, and faithful presence – in spirit if not in flesh – wherever a neighbor is in need. We will continue courageously, together.

For all, we pray:

Creator God of all life, we come to you with humbled hearts! Hearts that love and at this time implore your healing presence upon our suffering world. You call all of us to go beyond boundaries in meeting the needs of others and to work as partners with hearts of compassionate concern. Help us to be present to one another in all our endeavors to foster a healthier and more just world, even in difficult times. Amen.

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