March/April 2020 (Part 1.)
Dear Readers of our monthly issue of GenEx
Peace of the Risen Christ be with you!
We would like to inform you that our GenEx news from March, April and May, will not only contain important information from our various provinces, but our wish is also to share life experiences and stories of our communities all over the world during this difficult time of COVID-19. Therefore, you will find some news as well as articles and letters from the sisters and communities. These articles will be shared on our website at different times for our readers to see.
United with you in the love of Jesus Christ,
Sr. Izabela Świerad SAC
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▪ Pope Francis’s most direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a striking use of papal ritual. He swiftly arranged the unusal address Urbi et Orbi, “To the City and the World” - which is usually given only on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and after the election of a new Pope. Standing in a deserted St. Peter’s square with a steady rain fall, Pope Francis spoke to the world through all means of modern communication. He prayed for the world at this critical juncture in the presence of two images that have accompanied the people of Rome for centuries: the ancient icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani– usually housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major – and the Miraculous Crucifix kept in the Church of San Marcello Via del Corso. Above all, the Pope exposed the Blessed Sacrament for adoration and imparted his Apostolic Blessing, offering everyone the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. As Pope Francis says, the Coronavirus is surely ‘Testing Our Whole Human Family’. Let us again remember the words of St. Vincent Pallotti that God is in all things. For the detail message see website.
▪ During this time of crisis, the sisters in the Generalate, had to adjust themselves to new ways of living. Our life is not the same in the sense that we were used to seeing the churches opened, which offered many possibilities for liturgical celebrations, Masses, confessions and prayers. Now churches are closed, we are also closed in, and can only participate through TV or internet. As all do we accept this situation with faith and trust in God. We keep ourselves informed of the situation globally and so embrace all in our prayers. We are also trying to cheer up our neighbors living in the closed apartments to uplift their spirits by singing hope filling hymns from our terrace. It has been an appreciated gesture as most people came out to their balconies and joined us in singing and clapping. From our balconies we can see how neighbors who did not know each other are trying now to develop friendships. We are often greeted by the families and asked to remember them in prayers. Hence, we can say that, this crisis is connecting communities and all mankind with God and one another. The virus has not discriminated from color, race, and culture, rich and poor. In the end we are all equal and we are all together. We are learning to treat life with sanctity, respect, and the honor that it deserves not just our lives and the ones we love, but all human life. With hope in God, who loves us, we believe He will bring to our lives, forgiveness, unity, kindness, and compassion. The transformation will happen only, if we submit totally to His will and give Him a chance to repair our hearts. It is our strong belief that we won’t remain the same after this crisis, we shall become new-born people.
▪ The Procura General, our guesthouse is closed according to government regulations and the community of the Sisters now is experiencing life in the house without guests and the personnel. Due to fear and uncertainty of the time many of our guests have cancelled their bookings. However, we keep our spirit high, being in contact with many guests, sharing good words and faith with them, praying and being in solidarity. We hope that our guesthouse will return to its own rhythm and be able to continue. We receive many messages and notes via email from our guests, who express their proximity and experience of their faith. This time of closure motivates us to live creatively and actively, dividing the different activities and embracing our needs and needs of those who are close.
Sr. Hanna Kiedrowska still gives her voluntary service with love, tirelessly and joyfully to the homeless in the vicinity of the Vatican in collaboration with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Almoner of Papal Charities. When we ask her how she feels, she says: “In this time of painful trial that we live, I thank the Lord for every day of good health, because I can serve the poor on behalf of the community. I praise God for the gift of courage that He puts in my heart so that I can face the challenge of the virus and the cry of the poor. With this experience once again, in a more visible and touching way I experience God's presence with me and the power of His Providence. I feel very much supported with prayer, encouragement and involvement from my communities”. Sr. Hanna goes every Tuesday and Thursday with Cardinal Krajewski and a small group of volunteers to distribute bags with food, masks and disinfectants to the poor and homeless at the largest Station in Rome. Every Tuesday she gives service in the Vatican showers for the poor.
In the midst of this strange scenario, we reflect on God who has always been a “God of surprises” but now we call Him “God of shocks”. Although we have fear for the future, and sometimes feel sadness we have also reasons to thank God every day for the gift of life especially when we think of the thousands of people who have been reported suffering and died. We try to share more our spiritual life that strengthens our faith, unity and live much more poor, consciously, sparingly, entering deeper into our vow of poverty.
▪ On March 3, the German Bishops' Conference elected the Bishop of Limburg, Georg Bätzing, as the new chairman of the Bishops' Conference. On March 13 and 14, the sub-commission of the commission "Bridge of Unity" met for the first time. Its members are, together with Sr. Adelheid Scheloske, Provincial Superior Sr. Astrid Meinert, Sr. Rosemarie Steinbach from England and Sr. Maria Dörig from Switzerland. Their fruitful exchange on the upcoming topics now is to be shared in the communities in Germany, England and Switzerland.
During this week, there was also the move of the Sisters into the new House Camaldoli. Yet, this is not the time to arrive after months of clearing and moving. While some construction work was still to be completed, the corona crisis in Germany was having an ever increasing impact. For the time being, we could celebrate Holy Mass for the last time on March 15th. From then on no public services should be celebrated in Germany. Now some Sisters from House Felizitas and the Sisters from Haus Camaldoli meet at separate prayer times in House Felizitas and in the Chapel of the Provincial House, during which also Holy Communion is administered.
In Germany the Sisters are very concerned, because almost all sisters are elderly and belong to the so-called risk group. In all three communities, we follow strict guidelines to protect both ourselves and our employees as much as possible. We are very grateful for the commitment of all those who work in the nursing homes of our St. Vincent Pallotti Foundation and who care for all our residents and for our sisters in need of care.
Our Easter was different, but we have spiritually adapted to the situation. Individually, but united in prayer, each sister chose for herself which divine services she wanted to watch on TV and so we were present in many cathedrals in Germany and of course in Rome. The message that the women brought to the disciples was valid then and is more valid today than ever before: HE is truly Risen! This is our anchor in these days.
Like the disciples of Emmaus, we also know that we are accompanied and we pray: Lord stay with us.
LET US REMEMBER OUR DECEASED SISTERS
SR. BEATRIX KÖHLER SAC * 19.11.1928 † 30.03.2020 GERMANY
To be continued …