Sister Mary Catharine Perry: I’m a Nun and I’ve Been Social Distancing for 29 Years. Here Are Tips for Staying Home Amid Coronavirus Fears. 

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Sister Mary Catharine Perry, a cloistered nun with the Dominican nuns in Summit.

By Sister Mary Catharine Perry, as told to Cassidy Grom,,

Sister Mary Catharine Perry has been a cloistered nun with the Dominican nuns in Summit for 29 years. This opinion piece was based on conversations as told to NJ Advance Media reporter Cassidy Grom. It was edited for length and clarity…

For the past 29 years, I’ve chosen to practice social distancing.

Of course, I and the 17 other nuns I live with don’t call it that.

We are formally called cloistered sisters, meaning we never leave our walled-off monastery in Summit except for doctors’ visits or perhaps shopping for a specific item. We don’t go to parties or weddings or out to eat with friends. I often go months without leaving our 8-acre home.

The coronavirus is forcing many people in New Jersey and across the world to stay home, limit outside contact — and in a way, start living life like cloistered nuns.

Of course, this virus is not good. Sickness never is. And I understand that this sudden shift in our society is frightening. As someone who has lived a life of separation, I’d like to share from my experience how you can make the best of it.

First, you need to establish structure.

Your normal day-to-day lives have structure imposed on them from the outside; you have to catch the train at a certain time to go to work, you have school recess at the same time every day. These things give you a sense of consistency and rhythm.

Now that you are stuck at home, create a schedule for yourself and your family. At the monastery, we wake up at the same time every day and get fully dressed (no pajamas). We have planned time for prayer, worship, work, eating and fun. Our days usually have a peaceful rhythm. This might take some experimentation; each household is different and for many, it might be the first time they spend an extended period of time with roommates or family.  …

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