By Sean O'Riordan
Nobody knows more about self-isolation than an order of enclosed nuns and they’ve reached out on social media to offer advice to people suffering anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Abbess Marie Fahy, who is in charge of the only Cistercian monastery for women in Ireland, took to Facebook to offer encouragement to people in these uncertain times.
Abbess Fahy and the other 23 nuns at St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, near Lismore in Co Waterford, said that while they were continuing to pray for the whole country, and especially frontline medical staff, they also wanted to offer practical advice to keep people’s spirits up.
“What prompted me was being aware that so many people are being contained in their own homes, especially those over 70,” Abbess Fahy said.
“They might be getting anxious and fearful.
Maybe those of us who live in monastic life and enclosure might be able to offer a few tips to help you survive these challenging weeks.
The advice includes “keeping a strong daily structure,” such as getting up and going to bed at the same times and keeping busy cleaning and cooking and doing a bit of outdoor work.
Abess Fahy said that people should put time aside for communicating each day with friends via phone calls, text messaging, emails, and so on.
“Do something purposeful each day. Decluttering some wardrobe or drawer, putting old photos in albums, cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, keep a journal; something that will give you a sense of achievement at the end of the day,” the abbess said.
She added that if somebody is religious, they should pencil in some time for prayer throughout the day, or read a psalm or a story from the Gospels.
She advises that people can also start reading “all those books that you never have had time to read before”.
The nuns, who range in age from 24 to almost 90, have their own problems at present. They manufacture the Hosts for Holy Communion for many of the country’s churches. They have lost income from that and the religious cards they produce and from a guesthouse that’s almost constantly booked for retreats.
However, on the plus side they are still growing their own vegetables and have a few sheep.
Abbess Fahy said the nuns are fortunate that they have a large church to pray in, so they can distance themselves appropriately from each other and each has their own ensuite room.
“We also have wonderful neighbours who are picking up stuff and delivering it to us,” she said.