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September 22, 2021 23 min
Franciscan Spirituality Center
920 Market Street
La Crosse, WI 54601

Steve Spilde: Today it is my great pleasure to be with Audrey Lucier. Audrey is the Director of the Franciscan Spirituality Center, serving in that role for the past nine years. Welcome, Audrey.

Audrey Lucier: Thanks, Steve.

Steve: From your perspective as Director of the Franciscan Spirituality Center, this has been a strange year. How has the pandemic affected the FSC’s programs in the last 12 months, 18 months?

Audrey: As so many people have said, it’s been both a blessing and a curse. I’ll speak to the pandemic in just a moment, but I think what was uppermost in the minds of those of us who work at the center at the time that things were unfolding were the renovations that were taking place in our physical space. Saint Rose Convent was undergoing a massive renovation that was going to take three years to complete, and it was in progress. It wasn’t in our part of the building yet, but it was coming that way and we were worried about how we were going to manage to stay open and how we could greet people during that time – [there were] a lot of concerns about that. And then boom, this pandemic happened. It was a feeling of, life as we know it is forever changed, and we didn’t know where it would all end. I hoped it would be done in a month or two, and then it went on forever. One thing that I will always be just amazed [by] and grateful for is the way the staff stepped up. Many of our staff are not quite as old as me – one of us is maybe older – but none of us are really young, and we all had to learn to use technology very quickly because we were all united in the belief that our services were needed more than ever during this time. There was a lot of anxiety and even sometimes despair and a lot of fear about what would happen. Hope was something we talked a lot about – how to keep people hopeful and keep them centered and grounded in their spiritual lives, where we find hope.

We all learned how to put everything online quickly. [We had] Spiritual Directors like yourself meeting with people – a little bit on telephone, but mostly through video conferencing. And [it was] the same with our programs. The wonder about that is … again, our demographic is probably a little older, [so] many people had to teach themselves how to use something like Zoom, and they did. Many of them adjusted very rapidly. Not only that, but people started sharing with other people where you could go online and be in a community [and] where you could get some support and maybe learn some resilient skills to get through this time and most importantly, stay connected. We actually had a lot of people participate in our programming here. We did the statistics for the year that ended June 30th. That was entirely a pandemic year, and we had almost 5,000 people in our programs coming from 37 different states [and] two different countries – we just picked up Australia too after July 1st. It was surprising to me how we actually grew in that time. And as staff, we had to do the same thing. It was really important that we continue to see each other even though physically we couldn’t be in the same space. We needed to talk, share ideas, and personally talk about how we were being impacted.

I remember when I first became director it was kind of a struggle to get people to set aside time
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