Like almost everyone else around the world, residents and staff of St. Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud have been staying at home for the past seven weeks. Residents must wear masks when they leave their rooms.
“All the sisters and staff are wearing masks, so we need many,” said Benedictine Sister Marlene Schwinghammer, dean of the retirement center, where 65 retired sisters live.
The sisters and staff are doing all they can to stay safe and healthy. So, a recent donation from St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville was very welcome, Sister Marlene said.
A group of international students who have stayed at the school during the coronavirus pandemic coordinated shipments of masks from their families in China. They appreciate having a place to stay and wanted to give back to the school and St. Cloud community that they have called home during their time at Prep.
“[We] are all worrying about this current situation in the United States right now,” said Jiayang “Annabella” Yang, a junior at the school. “Not only for ourselves, we also want our community to become better and healthier.”
“We are filled with gratitude to students and staff for remembering us and sharing these masks with us at St. Scholastica Convent,” said Sister Marlene.
On behalf of the students, the school is in the process of distributing a total of 9,000 masks. More than 4,000 are going to CentraCare, including 900 Food and Drug Administration-approved surgical masks.
In addition to the donation to St. Scholastica Convent, masks also are being sent to the St. John’s Abbey Retirement Center and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. A small number will be kept at Prep for staff to use on campus.
“We are deeply grateful for these extraordinary acts of generosity — gifts given in kindness and compassion,” said Jon McGee, head of school. “These masks will help thousands of people. … They will help slow the spread of the disease and protect health care providers as they treat it.”
Last month, the students and their families contacted McGee and Principal Christine Glomski with their idea. Yang sent the two an email on behalf of the families.
She wrote about a donation of masks on its way from the families of ninth-graders Siyuan “Sean” Chen and Yueying “Annie” Liu, both from Shanghai, and Yang’s family in Changsha City, just a little over 200 miles from Wuhan, the center of the outbreak of the virus in their country.
The first shipment contained 3,000 masks. Since the original email, the family of senior Emily Huang from San Jose, California, has added to the donation.
“The coronavirus has brought a lot of unfortunate issues, and it has completely changed our life,” Yang said. “But I am so proud of the people around me, that we can live so positively and face the troubles together. I was very happy to see how our school took action immediately. I think, as we are all trying the best we can to make sure ourselves and people around us are being taken care of, that this ‘enemy’ will eventually be defeated.”
Yang said she is grateful that she has somewhere to shelter in place, and she hopes that other students will come forward to donate masks. They just need the idea, the inspiration, she said.
“We have really limited ability to help,” she said. “But we try our best and I think if we work together as a larger community, we’ll have a larger power if we all work together.”
“The masks, given to us by students and families from China, make a compelling statement about the ways people come together as community from near and very far to help each other” McGee said. “When we work together as a community and across borders, we can achieve great things.”