COVER STORY: Surviving at home during pandemic

Last Updated on July 13, 2020 by Editor


Maria Quintal is quite talented.

Maria Quintel has made masks during the pandemic.

In addition to being part of the Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Music Ministry, she has two black belts and is a retired state trooper.

And now, during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic, she was helping others.

“I have been sewing cotton surgical-style face masks for Utica area seniors, family members, neighbors and now outpatients at area hospitals,” she said (check out her photo on the cover). “(I) have been delivering them, hanging them in bags on doorknobs, sent them via U.S. mail, etc. Many recipients have been sending me selfies wearing their masks, which warms my heart, and my aching back!”

Our parish community until recently was apart for about four months, so over that time we thought we’d ask what have parishioners been up to. Here are some of the responses we received:

Fred Valentini

This was supposed to be my dream semester at Utica College. I had already informed the college that after 46 years in classrooms I was going to put my chalk/whiteboard markers back in the box. Then COVID-19 hit. All of the material I had prepared for the last three months of instruction would have to be retooled for online instruction.

I’m not afraid of technology but prefer to be the one who decides when to use it. What would have taken an hour to do — whether it was planning, grading or even setup — now takes two to three times longer.

Not all the students bought into the new approach. … I have had to make various accommodations for students who had poor internet service, lacked their own laptop or who lived in the hotspots in the state (some had family or neighbors with the disease).

The upshot of this approach is that even the professor can come to class in his pajamas (I don’t, but some students do).

Terry Reale
MAIN PHOTO: Fred Valentini said this was supposed to be his “dream semester” teaching a class at Utica College. “Then COVID-19 hit (and) all of the material I had prepared for the last three months of instruction would have to be retooled for online instruction,” 
ABOVE: Terry Reale, husband John and daughter Sara kept busy. “We’ve focused on projects around the house such as spring cleaning and other cleaning that had been back-burnered for a long time … but now there were no excuses.”

Well, these have certainly been challenging times — trying to cope with the pandemic, stay busy to avoid being frightened and feeling overwhelmed and trying to navigate Holy Week and Easter in a whole new way has certainly been an unprecedented set of tasks.

We’ve focused on projects around the house such as spring cleaning and other cleaning that had been back-burnered for a long time … but now there were no excuses. It was also imperative to observe all the directives of staying home and learning to do things like order groceries for delivery to avoid trips to the store. The utmost priority was not to bring the dreaded virus into our home.

We had to find creative ways to connect with our faith and watch Mass and other reflections on YouTube and other sources on technology. It was so wonderful to have Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday Masses (and now Sunday Masses) to us via those avenues. We took great comfort in that. Other helpful sources included daily reflections in the little Black Book as well as the posts from Dynamic Catholic with Michael Kelly. These programs were there for us whenever we needed them and in our own time, so there was never any concern about missing them.

Things like celebrating my husband’s birthday by making him a special dinner with our daughter Sara (who was stuck here with us), making him his favorite — apple pie — and our kids surprising him with a birthday parade all made for an extra special day.

We also passed the time by playing pitch and Scrabble, which was great because we never seem to make time to connect like that. Plus, I take time to read to my grandsons each night and we go with Sara occasionally to walk her dog.

Laurie Siniscarco

We spent the first part of our isolation spring cleaning our apartment. Now that that’s done, we have been keeping busy with a variety of things while at home.

We are going through picture albums and compiling individual collections of pictures to give to our daughters. I made some masks for our family and friends. We take rides to nowhere just to get out.

As president and vice president of our Resident Association at Schuyler Commons, we initiated a fundraiser with the proceeds to go to Feed the Vets, and food baskets for the staff for each floor of St. Elizabeth’s and St. Luke’s. Our residents were overwhelmingly generous. It really warmed our hearts.

We have been watching Father Jim’s messages on Facebook and Mass … from our parish. We have watched other Masses and Stations of the Cross on EWTN. Not a lot, but the days go by and before we know it’s evening.

Colleen Bottini

I think our biggest lesson (which we are still trying to learn) is patience for one another. We are a close family, but being together 24/7 brought challenges and frustrations. I had to especially learn to step back from a situation, truly assess what was happening, and consider its importance in the grand scheme before reacting. 

I would say we’ve adopted a “going-back-to-basics” mindset during this time, and so I’ve used this time to complete many cleaning out projects I didn’t previously have time for and I’ve been reading voraciously, which I love. Our children have become more independent in that they’ve learned more ways to care for themselves and chip in for household chores. They also have had more time to play outside.

Michelle Babbie

I get to see my family, both more and less. With schools closed, both of my boys are at the house more, but our larger extended family hasn’t been able to gather in person. We’ve celebrated all the recent holidays virtually, but it simply isn’t the same. … I have been impressed by how well everyone, everywhere has flexed and adjusted to new ways of doing all kinds of things in an attempt to serve the common good. … We are stronger than we thought we were, and as impossible as the COVID19 quarantine has been, I am glad to have seen what we’re capable of overcoming.

Dominick Scavo

The virus has affected our family in a way that we have never experienced before. Although we are safe and healthy we try to stay positive, but being confined has played a big role, all of yearly plans have changed like I am sure many people plans have changed. …

This country is on the brink of serious issues and people are not only dealing with this virus, they are now dealing with all of the protests and racial imbalance that we have. No leadership in this country has put us further behind, all I can say is pray, stay healthy and hope some day it will be over. We are a country divided that needs serious prayers to pull us through.

Loraine Bolen

This virus has affected my family by realizing the seriousness of this global pandemic.We have adhered to the CDC guidelines in controlling this disease. The cooperation has been remarkable in our region. … Prayers have been a huge part of our mental well-being.

We have learned to be a part of the Sunday Mass at Mount Carmel each week through the internet as well as reading “The Word Among Us” every day, as we have continued through the years. We also were in the middle of a Bible study group at The Good News Center studying “A Journey Through Church History” when everyone was quarantined in their homes. We continued to study all 20 sessions every week at home viewing the videos on the internet. movies and cleaning the house and doing laundry chores.

Susan Martellotto Januszewski, RN
Registered nurse Susan Martellotto

My calling since 1970 has been helping others. I first started as a candy striper — 50 years this year in health care. … I have been helping cover for nursing vacancies at local nursing homes since schools are closed. I am full-time at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. On Easter I passed a med cart to help out.

St. Mary of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament parishioner Sebastian “Benny” Lupo lives at The Pines of Utica. I delivered Easter baskets with candy and grapes for him and his roommate, their fruit of choice. Having worked all day, I didn’t prepare an Easter dinner. I was so grateful Joe Caruso called and delivered me an Easter dinner complete with sausage pie and cassatt. How blessed.

Joe and Madeline Briggs

My wife and I have been spending our time doing all those little chores that we never were able to find the time to do. We have been taking walks, visiting neighbors while maintaining social distancing, and visiting our kids and grandchildren via FaceTime.

Marie Robilotto

During these times of social distancing, some businesses are facing the need to continue their commitment to the public and tend to their needs in the same manner as they are accustomed to, but in a totally different environment. So, my time has been spent assisting Eannace Funeral staff with families via teleconference, trying to make sure things are as transparent as possible while still ensuring we maintain the same level of compassion and attention that they need and remain true to our commitment to help them through this part of our journey.