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Convent near Milwaukee loses eight sisters to COVID in one week

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John Burger - published on 12/23/20

Four nuns pass away on the same day, leaving community with a "heavy heart" right before Christmas.

COVID-19 has hit a Wisconsin convent particularly hard, claiming the lives of eight sisters in one week — with four dying on the same day.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame convent in Elm Grove, about 10 miles west of Milwaukee, confirmed their losses to NBC affiliate TMJ4.  

Sister Debra Sciano, provincial leader of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific, told TMJ4 that the eight sisters were all educators and “role models” who dedicated their lives to the community.

“For me, these are wisdom figures — women I have known for all of my 40 plus years in the community,” Sister Sciano said. “Every one of our sisters is really important, not only to us but feel they have touched a lot of lives we’ll never be aware of.”

The deceased are Sisters Joan Emily Kaul, Lillia Langreck, Cynthia Borman, Michae Marie Laux, Mary Alexius Portz, Dorothy Macintyre, Rose M. Feess, and Mary Elva Wiesner. 

ABC30 reported Sunday that a ninth sister died at a separate campus.

In a post on Facebook last week, the Notre Dame School of Milwaukee said that Sister Rose Feess, who taught there for over 15 years, was “known for her teaching skill, especially her attention to grammar and writing, her faith, her sharp wit and her love of cats.”

According to a report at CNN, Sister Lillia Langreck had been “heavily involved in racial and social justice efforts” for the past 60 years, including the Milwaukee marches for fair houses and integrated busing.

There are still  88 sisters at the convent, which was once an orphanage but is now a retirement home. The community said it was isolating and testing the sister twice a week.

Sister Sciano said the religious community would be celebrating Christmas with heavy hearts. She told TMJ4 they would be “trying to celebrate the lives of these women as we grieve their lives. They’ll be missed terribly.”

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