16 April 2020, The Tablet

Nuns step in as nursing home loses its staff

The nuns, from the Order of Saint Dominic, are appealing for gowns, masks and other medical equipment.

Nuns step in as nursing home loses its staff

A woman wearing a protective facemask walks along a street in Gdansk, Poland, 16 April 2020
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

A group of nuns have reportedly volunteered to be locked inside a coronavirus hit nursing home in Poland after numbers of staff there were dramatically reduced by infection and quarantine measures.


According to the Polish TV site TVN24, 10 sisters from the Congregation of St. Dominic stepped in when a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in a local nursing home infected 15 staff members and nearly 30 residents. With several staff members resigning out of fear of infection, and others self-quarantining at home, the home in Bochnia, Southern Poland, was left with so few healthy employees that caring for residents seemed impossible.

It was then that the group of religious sisters stepped in, offering to provide 24-hour-care, catering and company to the remaining residents until such a time that staff could return. When asked about infection risk, one of the Dominican sisters, Sr Julietta told local media that she and her consoeurs “place it all in God’s hands. We sisters want to serve other people regardless of the consequences.”


The sisters have also helped in the evacuation of healthy residents from the facility, preparing it for disinfection by emergency services. Even with remote advice from a medical expert, and the previous nursing experience of most of the sisters, concerns about the team’s health remain. Although they emphasised they saw their work as self-sacrificial in nature, the group have requested donations of masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment from the local community.

The work of the sisters has reportedly proven inspirational for some, with absentee staff members, inspired by their example, returning to work, and several Dominican friars expressing interest in joining the group of sisters. The coronavirus outbreak in Poland has been less severe in comparison to other European nations, with only 7,771 cases and 292 deaths, and the Polish government has announced that it intends to relax quarantine restrictions from Sunday 19 April.

The action taken by the group of Polish sisters parallels similar reports from around the world of priests and other religious volunteering to be quarantined with vulnerable groups rather than leave them without spiritual or physical support. A Dominican friar, Fr Hugh Vincent Dyer, volunteered to be locked inside an afflicted nursing home in New York several weeks ago, and multiple prison chaplains from around the world have reportedly taken up permanent residence within their prisons in the wake of lockdown restrictions being announced.

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