COVID outbreak blamed for deaths of 9 Michigan Catholic nuns

Adrian Dominican Sisters struggle with deadly COVID outbreak at Michigan motherhouse

COVID outbreak blamed for deaths of 9 nuns at Dominican Sisters of Adrian

ADRIAN, Mich. – The Adrian Dominican Sisters, headquartered in Adrian, Michigan, reported that nine sisters have died due to COVID-19 in the month of January.

“We spent nine months keeping the coronavirus at bay. Right before Christmas, it slipped in,” Sister Pat Siemen said.

The sisters -- Jeannine Therese McGorray, Esther Ortega, Dorothea Gramlich, Ann Rena Shinkey, Lisa Rieman, Charlotte Moser, Mary Irene Wischmeyer, Margret Ann Swallow and Helen Laier -- died between Jan. 11 and 26. Most of the sisters were already at high risk due to existing health issues.

READ: Adrian Dominican Sisters report deadly COVID-19 outbreak at Michigan motherhouse

“It’s numbing,” Siemen said. “I have a much deeper appreciation for all of the other families who have gone through this. The hundreds of thousands of families. And until it personally touches you, I don’t care how much we can have a sympathetic heart, it’s different when you’ve been there and you’ve lost someone.”

Siemen said they are now celebrating the lives of the sisters who have died. As of Thursday, 12 sisters on campus have tested positive for the virus and 25 have recovered.

A statement from the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters reads:

“After more than nine months of no cases of COVID-19 among resident Sisters, we are now experiencing an outbreak among both Sisters and Co-workers at the Dominican Life Center. The care and safety of our Sisters and Co-workers have been and remain our primary concern. We continue to practice stringent protocols, including quarantines, to mitigate further spread of the virus.

“Our prayers rise like incense for all impacted by this global health crisis: the sick and dying, their families, and all healthcare workers and people everywhere who generously and selflessly provide essential services to each and every one of us. Please join us in this prayer.”

Adrian Dominican Sisters

Earlier this month, members of the Catholic religious institute made headlines when they called on lawmakers to immediately remove President Donald Trump from office following the deadly riot that shook the U.S. Capitol -- an unprecedented move for the group.

MORE: Michigan nuns call for immediate removal of Trump from office

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.