March/April 2020 (Part 3.)
▪ With the spread of the COVID-19, the cases in South Africa despite the lockdown cases are rising each day. It has become a challenging time for everybody especially that of staying indoors and physical distancing. Sadly, so many people are dying with this pandemic even the medical professionals whom people depend on for assistance. The number of cases is going up; recovery speed is slow in comparison to the spread of the disease. This causes a lot of fear among people. Just in a short period but people do not seem to be the same. Very often people have raised questions; where is God? Why is He quiet? Where are we heading? However, these questions have made people grow more in faith and trust in God. Some families come to pray together more than before, but for some, not able to go to Church and particpate in the Eucharistic celebration, (only TV), faith is shaken.
In our communities, we are grateful to God for the daily Holy Mass. We are praying for all our sisters in different places who do not have access to Holy Mass at this time of lockdown. At St Joseph’s Home, some restrictions have been set up as well. No outsiders are allowed in, neither visits to the children. The children who were for their home holidays remained in their homes under the care of their parents. For the government the big challenge of the lockdown falls on the majority who have no job. The reports of gangsters, robbers and the kind are a threat. On the other hand, the Government has increased the children fund every month, also some subsidy is given to the unemployed to help them during this time of lockdown. The country is expecting to move from a level 5 to a level 4 lockdown as of 1st May. Level 4 makes provision for limited economic activity and the easing of some movement. A curfew from 8:00 - 05:00 will begin to operate while observing the preventive measures. Hence we pray that this lockdown may be for us a time to examine ourselves to repent our wrongdoings and return to God (Joel 2: 13)
▪ A very difficult situation related to the coronavirus epidemic shocked us and showed that we depend on something much larger than we think. People who have appreciated luxury, lots of goods, freedom, and health are now realizing that getting it all is not something that man deserves. Now we stop and discover how we got lost in our commitment and we don't have time for basic things like family, friends and community. During this time, we have the opportunity to put aside all the problems that seemed so important. Now we see what is important. The Earth has long said through pollution, fires and other phenomena that we must stop. The Holy Father Francis reminded us of this in the encyclical “Laudato Si”.
Today, we all feel fear because the global virus affects everyone. We have to face it. We need to reassess our lives. Now we can understand that we are all connected. At this time, we can thank God that we have unity with everything. We all knew that the world must change. This time we are experiencing is a very difficult lesson, but it is a chance to build a world from the very beginning. The virus allows us to see the world, our lives, our community from a new perspective. People, things, situations will never be the same again. This time is a lesson in our trust and our path of consecrated life, our dedication to God in life and death.
In all the communities of Pallottine Sisters in Poland, according to the request of the President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, we pray the Rosary every day at 8.30 pm. We carry our prayers to God through the hands of Mary for the eradication of the pandemic, for the grace of health for the infected, physical and spiritual strength for medical personnel and other staff, as well as for God's Mercy for the dying and eternal life for the dead.
The situation of the COVID-19 epidemic in which the world found itself, obliges us to think more and care about those who are sick. In response to the appeal of the Bishop of the Koszalin-Kołobrzeg Diocese, sisters from the community of Koszalin decided to join the action by sewing masks.
Sr. Danuta Abramowicz sewed on the machine ready elements prepared by other sisters. So far, more than 130 masks have been sewn. Each of them is enough for 4 hours of use, so there is a need for lots of them. To all the masks, the Sisters attach their prayers for those who will wear them. At this moment most meetings have been cancelled together with so many other activities most is done through the internet. Sr. Urszula Kłusek places on the Internet daily the reflections on God’s Word which strengthens us and keep us going trusting in God!
▪ Through this pandemic of coronavirus, human beings have come to know that God is almighty and the entire human race depends on Gods mercy. Intelligence and technologies are powerless. This situation unites the entire world to cry out to God for his healing, deliverance and protection. This has brought a lot of difficulties for individuals, families, communities and in particular the poor daily labourers in India. Many are shattered without work, shelter and food. Our Sisters in different states follow the regulations of government at the same time render their services in reaching out to the poor. Sisters spend more time in prayer and community building, which is very important at this moment of uncertainty. Only God is our strength and refuge.
The Staff and Management of Senior Citizens home in Bombay are struggling to cope with the lockdown. The movement restrictions have paralyzed the daily service of the elderly people. Our employees were not able to commute daily to report to work due to the harassment and beating from the police. As a result, ID cards had to be prepared in an emergency to rescue the employees. Even though with all the measures the workers were afraid to continue to work. After some negotiation Sr. Eugine Nirmala, administrator of the Home was able to convince them to stay on the premises so that the service to the old people would be continued. Another problem which occurred was the management of the Laundry. Since the last week of March, the proprietor of Laundry stopped functioning, hence Sisters and Staff had to carry the responsibility of washing all the soiled linen of the residents.
Due to lockdown, the vehicle from the Home couldn‘t be driven freely for shopping nor for any emergency. Special permission from the police had to be given to use the vehicle. It was God‘s providence that the Senior Citizen Home is well respected by all religions in the region, therefore, our good collaborators Mr. Vinayak a Hindu brother and other Muslim friends were very helpful to Sr. Eugine to carry on daily responsibility of the house. After the announcement on the lockdown was made, groceries were stocked up but stepping out to get vegetables, meat and fish has been a challenge. The visitors are stopped from coming to the home and also the senior citizens or sisters cannot go out. All are being careful and taking precautions. The masks have been provided to everyone and are encouraging frequent hand washing.
Despite the challenges to strengthen each other and lift the spirit of the elderly people, for the Easter, two goats were slaughtered by our Muslim friends on our premises so that a festive meal could be prepared for the elderly people. This was a joyful and memorable event in the history of NSH.
During these days another sad moment for the Sisters was the death of Mrs. Shiela Mehta 90 years old Hindu resident. Since her nieces and nephews are living in another state of India (Delhi) they couldn’t travel to conduct the funeral ceremony. They requested Sr. Eugine to perform the last rite in Hindu tradition that is to cremate the body. However, with much courage and for the love of humanity, with the help of Hindu collaborators such as; Mr Vinayak, doctors, police, ambulance driver, government officials ceremony was performed and certificate was obtained to prove her death. The urn of ashes is kept in NSH until it is handed over to the relatives.
All the spiritual and other activities in the house continue as usual. Sisters and the senior citizens continue to pray in hope that the world may be delivered from this deadly disease and mercy of God fall upon all humanity. What is worrying is the knowledge that it is the elderly who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Sr. Eugine with her management skills and faith in God gathers the energy to encourage the sisters and staff to continue to show mercy and compassion to these vulnerable elderly people, and stand by them to give moral support in their anxieties and worries. A great salute to our sisters and staff for their selfless and committed service in NSH.
▪ In this time we're in our countries are living with terror and fear towards this pandemic of COVID-19, many of us are tempted to ask: Why this is coming to us or when and how this will finish? This made us reflect on the passage from the book of Power of Silence written by Cardinal Sarah; “When we wonder about evil, we do not know what we are asking. For we seek to understand something incomprehensible...” Therefore we realize that it is not right to pass our time asking why and when; this is the real-time of surrendering and abandoning ourselves in the merciful hands of God because our help comes only from Him who made heaven and earth… (Ps 124, 8)
In our Region, we are living this moment of trials and suffering together with others. Rwanda, the situation is not yet so critical, but cases increase each day. The transmission is from other countries most affected. A lot of measures have been taken especially the movements from one place to another, closing of Churches, schools, airports and all the borders. We hope that it will be helpful and prevent the spread. All in all, the big problem which may be for Rwanda but also the entire African continent is poverty. When all is lockdown many people will die from hunger since all depend on farming and small business. Otherwise, all the sisters are keeping well; we have a special program of intense prayer with daily and night adoration, rosary and novenas. The communities close to the Pallottine Fathers still have a chance for the Holy Mass, other communities, have communion services. In our prayer, we remember the entire congregation for God’s protection and all people.
The time in which we live now is a special time. It is a time of challenges; but it is also a time of special opportunity. Nothing is a coincidence, but this reality has fallen to all of us in 2020. God knows about us!
All people all over the world know the keyword "Corona"! Corona is the expression of an emergency that unites us worldwide: from north to south, from west to east! Everyone is affected: societies, churches, families, every generation, the rich and the poor! It is a blessing when rich countries not only selfishly view their own unfamiliar hardships, but also see and facilitate the increased need in countries with war and poverty.
Switzerland is deeply affected by this circulating disease. And no possession in this world saves us from contagion. Seen in this way, the poor and the rich are "in the same boat"! The churches try to find new ways to go, in order to live the message of Jesus in concrete terms and to bring it to the people. Lonely people are visited by phone, the poor are offered material help and services are offered by livestream and in many other ways. One of our sisters is involved in several pastoral tasks. No one knows how long this situation will last. In today’s world, when everything is planned, calculated and done, often at the expense of inner peace and health, this is an experience that invites us to exercise humility.
As a gift, that up to this hour all Pallottine Sisters in Switzerland have been saved from infection! We try to live in the confidence that God goes all the way with us!