The Challenge of Covid-19 for SCJMs around the world (continued)


St. Vincent, Congo (sent by Sr. Marie Céline Bulungu)

In the Province, so far, no Sisters have been infected by Coronavirus. Thank God.
In Haut Katanga: The Governor has authorised the sale of food products so that the population can get them. Barriers are being erected in different places to check the number of passengers allowed on public transport during this time of pandemic. In front of the food stores, shoppers are queuing up while respecting social distancing. Alcohol-based gel is given to people to disinfect their hands.

The situation does not seem too difficult for those who have a little money; while the majority of the population, who live from day to day by selling small items, is going through a difficult time.

In Kasai and Lomami: The population is on the move, people are only asked to respect the rules of hygiene. So far, only Kinshasa, North - Kivu, South - Kivu, Ituri and Kwilu in Bandundu have confirmed cases.

Overview of cases:
Kinshasa: 241 confirmed cases, 20 people cured, 20 deaths.
South Africa: 2272 confirmed cases, 410 people healed, 27 deaths.

In this alarming situation that the whole of humanity is going through, the Province of St. Vincent de Paul has chosen to have adoration every day in all our communities to implore divine help on our humanity in distress.

Mali (sent by Sr. Marguerite Tubale)

This, in brief, is the situation of COVID 19 in our country:

The Minister of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for keeping national and international opinion regularly informed of the epidemiological situation in Mali. He communicated the following:

On 12/4/2020 the health services registered 11 new cases of COVID 19, no deaths; 3 patients were cured, including a 15-year-old child.

To date, the number of positive cases registered in Mali is 116, including 9 deaths for a total of 25 patients cured. The care of the other patients is continuing. Other cases found in other cities are quickly sent to Bamako to avoid contamination.

The population is invited to remain calm and to respect preventive measures. We don’t leave our homes to go to the city and don’t have much news.

Easter was celebrated in intimacy, only with consecrated women, priests and a few lay people. All consecrated women are asked to stay in their communities: priests come to celebrate Mass every day.

England-Ireland (sent by Sr. Elizabeth Roche)

We are truly living in strange and bewildering times. We have begun our fourth week in lock - down, a term with which we have become very familiar since the COVID-19 has taken control of our lives. This silent, unseen and deadly enemy has caused and continues to cause hundreds of deaths daily. So much of life has to be put on the back burner, and the one thing we are all longing and hoping for, is a return to normality, whatever that new normal will be. As someone said recently,’s also a pandemic of human disappointment...a lot of grieving on top of sickness, many deaths from the virus, and so many dying alone in hospital, without a loved one present to hold their hand and give some comfort at such a critical moment. Social distancing demands being apart at a time that closeness is most needed. Then there follows the equally stringent restrictions on funeral services and burial. So lives, families and communities are in trauma here, as indeed they are all over the world. It is certainly the strangest of feelings, even surreal. There is a deep heart rending sorrow and struggle that many people are going through at this time, especially those who are ill; ill with COVID-19 and those ill in other ways, as well as those who are mourning their dead.

Against this backdrop, which seems almost unstoppable, until a vaccine is found, there emerges a depth of human kindness, goodness and neighborliness which stands in complete contrast to what is happening. It’s as if our common humanity comes together in a gentle and caring way to show us how to be together, at a time when we are asked to stay at home and to observe social distancing from each other.

Regarding the A/I Region, to date Sisters remain virus free, as we each observe the measures demanded by the Governments and Health Authorities in England and Ireland. As 30 of the 33 Sisters in the Region are in the 70 plus age range, it means the majority are restricted to remain housebound, going out only for essentials such as medication, and some daily exercise. Communication by the various means of modern technology is of course a tremendous asset at this time, making contact to lessen the sense of isolation and loneliness. There is a lot of availability of live streaming of Mass from various places, which is very helpful, and during Holy Week the various services were accessible, allowing us to draw strength and hope from our Faith during this very difficult and challenging time. We, as Religious, are now experiencing the help and thoughtfulness of our neighbors who offer to bring us food supplies, and we in turn assure them of daily prayer, so we thank God that we are discovering what it means to belong to the one human family.

Sri Lanka (sent by Sr. Anastasia Perera)

Christ is risen! The Day after Easter all of us Sisters of Charity can look back in thanksgiving for the Grace of the on-line retreat which we had the opportunity to make together to discover everyone and everything anew in the Lord, and to grow in solidarity with the victims of Coronavirus.

The first confirmed case of the virus reported in Sri Lanka was on 27 January, a 44-year-old Chinese woman from Hubei Province in China who had arrived as a tourist. On 10 March, the first Sri Lankan local national, a 52-year-old tour guide working with a group of Italians, had tested positive. Thereafter, the reported cases, infected persons, and quarantined areas began to multiply and spread rapidly through the island. Wearing face masks became compulsory. The TV and radio issued instructions regularly about the necessary precautionary measures people had to take. Fear and uncertainty were evident everywhere. So many questions and no seeming answers! We were challenged to remain peaceful, supportive, and confident that the Lord would protect us!

Many travelers had neglected the quarantine procedures. This meant that they would spread the virus around. And they did! By 25 March, over 14,000 people were quarantined. Travel restrictions were introduced: suspension of visas and international flights. On 27th March, curfew was declared. It meant the inability to go out. Panic buying and long queues! We were challenged to return to a simpler life style, to question ourselves, to learn to do with less and to be thankful for the essentials. It was also a call to turn to our Mother Earth: cultivating home gardens for the future and listening to the gospel message, “look at the birds of the air and the lilies in the field”. In many of our communities Divine Providence was experienced in undreamt of ways when the larder was found empty and many mouths to feed!

Responsible behavior was called for: avoiding crowds, social distancing, frequent sanitization, refraining from abusing of social media, not violating the curfew restrictions… (to date more than 20,000 have been arrested for violations). Liturgical prayers, including Holy Week services, were cancelled and this was a blow until one reflected and saw that God is in our hearts!

In all our convents the sisters watched, prayed, encouraged others and hoped that the epidemic would soon come under control. However news coming in from the European countries left us aghast. We had recourse to many forms of prayer and supplication. Some of our smaller communities and homes for elders with residential priests or chaplains nearby continued to have mass and embraced the rest of the province and the Congregation in their prayer.

Day today spirituality and faith is now a living force, not just among the sisters but in the nation as a whole. People, though confined to their homes, are closer and more concerned. There is more sharing and caring. People gather around their televisions to follow mass and other services. Every little home and family is now a living church and a sanctuary of God’s love!

Vietnam (sent by Sr. Suman Anima Toppo)

According to the Ministry of Health, the country totally has had 265 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders since the virus first became known, some of whom have recovered. Today the total number of people quarantined amount to 75.291.

From 1st April, we have strict nationwide social distancing rules, restricting movements only for essential things. In this context, the Church in Vietnam live-streamed daily masses and other services during Triduum and Easter Vigil. The churches, which used to be full for daily masses, witnessed emptiness and great silence during the crucial time of Easter 2020. However, in families and communities, thousands of believers attend online masses daily with much love and devotion.

As responsible citizens of the country, all of us in the Region contribute our share to the nation by strictly adhering to social distancing, making sacrifices, and daily praying for the victims and sharing what we can with the poor.

For some of us this became a given opportunity for togetherness, our Cor Unum Anima Una. It is also a time to give expression to some of our God-given gifts and talents: art and handicraft, tailoring, painting, and the like. We have taken it also as an opportunity to study the Word of God and Congregational documents. We also have sessions to improve our knowledge of the language.

Some of us were anxious, including our aspirants and postulants. So, at times we sat together and talked about our experience during this moment of uncertainty and everyone shared their thoughts and reflections. We try to be channels of grace to each other. The formees were given the option to go back to their parents if they so wished; but their answer was striking: “Sisters, we have come here; we will face these difficulties together.” This beautiful response strengthened each one of us.

During this time, our benefactors were more concerned about our needs. Without entering the house, they would leave food items for us! We lack nothing! We are experiencing the providence of God. According to the available facility, communities plant their own vegetables and manage with whatever is available. As much as possible, we reach out to the poor in the neighborhood and share with them what we have in the spirit of Easter.

One of the communities had the privilege of having the Eucharist during the holy week, and the Easter day. Thanks to the parish priest who chose our house to celebrate the holy Eucharist and it was live-streamed for the parishioners.

United in prayer, the whole Region offers the mercy Rosary daily and spend an hour in adoration to pray for the healing of our world from corona virus. Walking together with others, we joined the Lifeline retreat with the same sentiments and intentions. The quiet time of social isolation has helped each of us to grow deeper in our relationship with God, self, one another, the people in the world and the whole of creation.

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