The Radiance of SCJM Charism in the face of Covid-19! Cont.



I was on my way to a medical shop a few days ago when I was stopped by a poor lady who looked worn out and troubled. She told me that she had two children and had no means of running the family during the lockdown. She also told me that there were many people around the place who did not have any work and so no money to buy food for the family. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she narrated and I felt moved. On my way back I kept thinking how to reach out and help them. Back in the convent when I shared my experience with my sisters in the community, they were moved too and suggested that with the help of the local people we could make a survey of the area where the most affected people were staying and thereafter we could do something for them to fight this pandemic during this lockdown period.

There were people living in small, dingy, rented rooms without even basic necessities of life, including the lady who had spoken to me before. With the help of some local business men, we made packets of basic food items that would help a family to survive. It was mandatory to inform the local police/civil authorities before distributing food material to the people in the villages. The police were very happy and supportive when our plan of helping the people was told to them. So after completing the formalities, some of us went to the villages and distributed the packets among the neediest. People came rushing towards us from every corner as they were waiting for food. On the following day, I saw many children and ladies gathered outside our gate. I knew it was for food as they had heard about it from others. I felt sorry for them for none of them had a mask or gloves as their concern was food; the threat of coronavirus did not matter to them. It was very difficult for them to keep the required social distancing as they were preoccupied with the thought of getting food. I could sense the anxiety on every face as they waited for the food packets. Then I saw the smile on their faces when they received what they were waiting for and the look of relief. More people started coming; the need was more than what we had calculated. The issue is to be addressed and resolved and I felt the need to work harder.

Later in the evening, as I recalled the day’s experience I marvelled at how a small act of charity brought such joy and happiness in the lives of some of our people. That smile on those otherwise worried faces is enough to keep going!

Sent by Sr. Cresentia Xalxo

Dutch-speaking Province

While Covid 19 is raging through our country, leaving a devastating trail of death, suffering and sorrow, we can discern smaller and greater signs of hope and generosity in our communities and surroundings.

First and foremost, all of us are grateful for the manifold initiatives taken to provide us with spiritual nourishment and succour while liturgical celebrations are so badly missed. Most of our communities have learnt how to deal with “livestream”, You Tube and websites projected on TV. We are extremely grateful to the Belgian bishops and the staff of “Kerknet” (the website of the Flemish church), who provide us with manifold initiatives, thus proving them to be extremely good shepherds. Our own mini site on Kerknet has also given some input so as to lighten the effects of solitude and anxiety. We experience that the “virtual” world is not meaningless!

Besides caring for the physical and psychological needs of our fragile sisters, our community coordinators are offering spiritual input and information, especially for those confined to their rooms under quarantine. Srs. Sushila & Noreen, members of the international community to-be, are generously offering their loving services to the sisters at Melle and in the process of picking up some Dutch.

Several communities have taken initiatives to lighten the burden of isolation, experienced by people living in a retirement home. They make greeting cards for residents. One community gave them the message: “Keep courage, all will be well sometime” and inserted homemade cookies. Sisters, being residents themselves, have experienced manifold gestures of attention: sweeter than sweet!

We notice that we religious are not the only ones to give small signs of kindness, solidarity and generosity. First and foremost, we see and are grateful for the never-ending toil and work of our collaborators: nursing staff, people helping with maintenance needs, administrative staff and community coordinators. They witness to great compassion and amazing creativity to solve all practical issues to keep sisters safe and at “social distance”. We are in awe for the zeal of medical personnel, scientists such as virologists, epidemiologists, not forgetting journalists and politicians.

These are the prominent “heroes”, but ordinary people and even youngsters offer their smiles and readiness to help: “Are you in need?” “Can I help you in some way?” were the messages found in some mailboxes!

We join in with the local population showing appreciation and gratitude for those toiling at the service of the sick: we display white sheets on a balcony, we join in clapping hands with our neighbours, we make phone calls and send “whatsapp” messages, or even ring the chapel bell at 8 p.m. in keeping with what the bishops requested from the parishes.

Many women and even some men have started sowing facial masks and some of our communities have been the recipients of these so badly needed items. Some of our sisters have also started sowing masks (especially for our own members and collaborators), as “Corona” is likely to be with us for a very long time.

Finally most of us have noticed that people are more readily smiling and nodding while meeting in the street.

We need to mention – not collateral damage, but collateral gain - in the absence of noise, so that bird singing can be heard. Surely this atmosphere of quietness is an invitation to reflection and prayer. Even nature has fared well with this crisis: pollution is noticeably reduced and wildlife is prospering. Children can once more be heard playing in the open, though we are aware that not all have the luxury of a garden or even a terrace. We are concerned about the homeless and the “gardenless”! For them confinement to the house is more trying than for most of us having a spacious house and a garden!

Yes, signs of hope we do discern!

Sent by Sr. Anne-Marie Dhooghe

To be continued...

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