Coronavirus kills five nuns in three weeks at American convent

Convent staff have been left devastated by the deaths, and say they are reflective of the incredible challenges that nursing homes and other aged care facilities face in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Lady of the Angels Convent suspended all communal activities and enforced social distancing protocols in early March – long before it was mandatory. They do not know how the virus spread the facility, and all five nuns only tested positive to COVID-19 posthumously. 

In Wisconsin there are at least 7,661 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 335 deaths.

On April 6, Sister Mary Collins was the first nun at the convent to pass away – just three days after she developed a mild cough.

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Vigilant staff had been testing residents for COVID-19, and tried to test Sister Collins. However, the elderly nun had dementia and was ‘too combative’ to tolerate the invasive process. A post-mortem revealed that she was suffering from the virus.

Then – in the space of just two days – two more nuns at Our Lady of the Angels suddenly passed away.

Sister Skender, 83, died April 7, while Sister Sherburne, 99, died April 9. Posthumous tests revealed they were both infected with COVID-19.

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At the same time, the virus was spreading rapidly through Milwaukee.

Wisconsin has 6,854 cases of COVID-19, with nearly half of those clustered within Milwaukee County.

Our Lady of the Angels suffered further heartbreak on April 19, when Sister Holtkamp, 102, passed away. It was later confirmed that she, too, had coronavirus.

Sister Kelter, 88, became the fifth nun at the convent to die from COVID-19 on April 26.

She had previously tested negative for the virus earlier in the month.

Darren Rausch, the director and health officer for the Greenfield Health Department, told The New York Times that convent staff had been on constant contact with him throughout the pandemic.

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He theorizes that doctors and nurses at the facility were presented with extra difficulties given the patients suffered from memory loss, and several had dementia.

‘It’s definitely very challenging. They can’t always vocalize what’s going on,’ he stated.

An administrator from Our Lady of The Angels told The Times: ‘“We welcome prayers for the health and comfort of our residents and staff as we grieve the loss of our sisters’.



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