Approximately 40 years ago when I first came to Saint Benedict’s Monastery, I was amazed at the size of the dining room. When I first walked in there, my shyness button went into overtime. I could hardly walk into the room because as many as 300 people could be there. It was like dining with 300 of your new friends. Not me!
But time changes everything. I moved to a smaller house to teach high school for several years, and the hugeness of the community decreased. Most recently, a worldwide pandemic happened.
Today when I walk into the same monastic dining room, half of the huge crowd of 40 years ago greets me. I know everyone, and I’m over my shyness.
During the worst of the pandemic, we decreased the number of sisters seated at a table. So, interacting with four people instead of six made a huge difference.
For me, it actually becomes one of the positive effects from the pandemic. When asked to name something positive, I find it almost impossible to think of any positive effects of COVID-19. However, recently I realized that relating to three other people at a meal is so much easier and pleasant than trying to converse with five others all at once.
I’ve noticed I stay longer when a really engaging conversation is taking place. I also see that even though I know everyone, I don’t know them very well. Apparently, others feel the same way because more people are staying longer, and the rushed feeling has lessened.
This may seem like a very tiny thing to label positive, but it has had a profound effect on me. Maybe as more of the world is vaccinated, more positive effects will surface.
After all, God is in charge.
Mary Jane Berger, OSB
Photo: Sisters Moira Wild, Josue Behnen, Carleen Schomer and Colleen Quinlivan at our April jubilee celebration (photograph was taken after sisters had been vaccinated), taken by Sister Karen Streveler