8 nuns die of COVID-19 in last week at Wisconsin convent

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ELM GROVE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- COVID-19 continues ravaging Wisconsin, and on Thanksgiving it entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Elm Grove.

Eight nuns died there in one week.

For nine months they were able to avoid having COVID-19 infect the sisters living there.

Now they've ratcheted up their health restrictions and are dealing with their grief.

Mount Mary University held a prayer service Friday afternoon, Dec. 18, to celebrate the lives of eight sisters taken by COVID-19. The School Sisters of Notre Dame retirement home in Elm Grove houses 88 nuns. It didn't have a single case of COVID-19 until Thanksgiving.

"It was like a gut punch, I was afraid to look at my phone, or get a call, or see a text about what was happening," said Central Pacific Provincial Leader Sister Debra Sciano.

She said the sisters had been living with restrictions. No visitors were allowed inside. The nuns could visit with themselves or outside on the grounds as long as they wore masks and kept apart. That's no longer the case.

"We're asking the sisters to stay in their rooms as much as possible, they're getting their meals there," said Sciano.

Other nuns who've tested positive are living in a temporary COVID-19 wing for now. Waukesha County has 79 active public health investigations in long-term care, group home, and health care settings right now.

Sciano said they're praying for their lost sisters and relying on their deep faith to ease their grief.

"It's heartbreaking for us, we also celebrate their lives, and we also know they would want us to do that, they would want us to continue their legacy," said Sciano.

The School Sisters said they've been following CDC and other public health guidance.

The home is not licensed by the state.

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