At a Catholic nursing home in Delaware, one-fifth of residents have died. The nuns who run the facility are grappling with their calling.
Until last month, Florence Facciolo and Karen Malzone were the dining-hall queens of their Catholic nursing home in Newark, Delaware. Karen, a mirthful woman in her late 70s, would use a walker to shuffle over to their assigned table, which was adorned with a fresh tablecloth for each meal and a new centerpiece every season. The two women would pass several hours laughing about nothing. When they got in trouble for being too raucous, 87-year-old Flo would give a “Who, me?” look and point at their third seatmate, Pat Klevence, the quiet one, who would just shake her head and smile from her wheelchair.
Karen was the first to get sick, catching a cough in early March that wouldn’t go away. After 10 days in isolation, she seemed to get a little better, but things at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, a facility run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor, were getting worse. At first, residents were seated at opposite ends of each table, then alone. Before long, they were eating meals in their rooms. Confined to her living space, Karen dogged the nurses and cleaning staff for updates about her neighbors on Saint Joseph’s, one of the facility’s two nursing floors. She peeked her head out of her room and saw that a stop sign had been posted on her door, warning people to check in with the nurses’ station before entering. The same sign had been posted on Flo’s door across the hall, and Pat’s had one too. Oh God, Karen thought.