The Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great might be handling the COVID-19 quarantine better than most–they are monastics after all. Yet even their timeless regime of prayer and ministry was altered by the pandemic. Most of the Motherhouse at Fox Chase is much quieter than usual save for one room full of activity. There the Sisters engage in what has quickly become an essential craft: producing masks for healthcare workers.
Sr. Teodora sits at a sewing machine where she turns rolls of fabric and lace into today’s hottest commodity. Beautiful abstract and floral prints take shape and in turn are neatly ironed and stacked by Sr. Olha. Now they are ready to ship, but rather than Amazon Prime customers these masks will be received by nearby Holy Redeemer Hospital. The project was a spontaneous initiative conceived during Holy Week but involves two much older elements of the Sisters’ identity.
First, for the task of making masks, the Sisters draw from the rich tradition of sewing and embroidery handed down for generations in Ukraine and later throughout the diaspora. Second, their involvement in healthcare dates back to Basil of Caesarea himself, whose monastic foundation in fourth-century Asia Minor helped address the medical needs of the poor. Thus, it is fitting that today the Sisters of Saint Basil have combined the penchant for textile handiwork of Ukrainian culture with their Order’s dedication to the sick.
The mission of the Sisters of Saint Basil is to bring about the praying, healing, and life-giving presence of Christ. Once social distancing made this difficult to do in person, they found another way, one responding directly to the needs of our time.