Queens Nun Offers ‘Wonderful Hope’ to Parishioners With Phone Support Group

By Emily Drooby

BAYSIDE — For a group of adults in the Brooklyn Diocese, a ringing phone means more than a call, it’s a lifeline during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

Sister Ave Clark has counseled people who are struggling through her Heart to Heart Ministry in person for years, but those sessions can’t happen now. So she’s set up a new way to reach them: group phone calls.

“Words of faith, even though we can’t see each other, are so important,” Sister Ave told Currents News. “So that’s how I see this connection — as a connection of God’s love via the phone.”

She’s calling the group “Wonderful Hope,” something very much needed during the pandemic as anxiety increases.

In these difficult times, calls to the federal Mental Health Crisis Hotline have jumped almost 900% compared to last year according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Over 6.8 million Americans already suffer from anxiety, a common mental disorder often made worse by the isolation, fear, and financial pressures brought on by the coronavirus.

President Trump talked about those worries when the pandemic first hit.

“You’re going to have massive depression,” he said. “You’re going to have depression in the economy also. … Massive drug use, massive depression, mental depression, massive numbers of suicide.”

Sister Ave is lending a helping hand to those who are suffering by tackling all of those issues, as well as one of the most difficult to come out of the pandemic: the loss of a loved one.

“For me, it’s very personal because I lost my sister,” group member Susan Schwemmer explained. “My sister passed away from the virus.”

It’s been a tough time for Schwemmer and her family, made even more difficult by social distancing restrictions.

“That’s what’s so hard about this,” Schwemmer said. “When you do lose someone, you don’t have the physical family, the touch. Everything is missing. We had to bury her and just sit in the car.”

Schwemmer has been leaning on Sister Ave’s phone-line for support.

“Knowing that all of these people love me and they were praying for me and her through this,” Schwemmer said about the passing away of her sister. “We lost her, but she’s with Jesus. And it just gives me the strength I need to take it one day at a time.”

Margaret Riconda has been living by herself since her husband passed away three years ago. She has been participating in the phone calls since the beginning. “It is truly amazing how just hearing your friends’ laughter can be so uplifting in this time of sheltering alone,’ she said.

This is exactly what Sister Ave had in mind: Help, hope, and healing through faith, and a personal connection.

To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to