The Radiance of SCJM Charism in the face of Covid-19! (Continued)


(Caught up in the web of the pandemic, our two student-sisters, one in France and the other in Rome, who were at a course on the formation of formators, share with us their experience of living with the C-19.)

France: Sr Béatrice Tshilemba (St Vincent, DR Congo)

All of a sudden, everything stopped, as if by the pressure of a finger on an emergency stop button, because of a virus. The machine of our lives came to a standstill and things took a completely unexpected turn.

In France, the travel ban as a health measure was introduced by the authorities as early as 12 noon on 17 March 2020.

I was staying with the Sisters of Christ the Redeemer, and shared the community life with the two Sisters there. Since freedom of movement was restricted, it was necessary to organize our prayer life according to the programs of the liturgical celebrations on KTO channel or YouTube. In addition, we adjusted our timetable to watch the news at 8 p.m. on France2 channel.

To respond to this situation, as a community, we stitched some gowns, donated bedsheets, participated in the action of sharing and drew up a list of people in difficult situations in our neighbourhood. Every day, at 8 p.m., we applauded the caregivers from our windows. We prayed for the sick, the care-givers, the scientists, the politicians, the Church and all its members and for the dead every day. One of our acquaintances, a 55-year-old doctor, died of Covid-19.

We had time to reflect on several topics, as the pandemic has highlighted social inequalities, the importance of human contact, the heroes of this time, the Eucharistic fast, a new Easter celebration, the equality of all men or the way of looking at the aftermath of the pandemic... These moments of mutual reflection and sharing led us towards a different vision of the world, with its contradictions and its possibilities. 

Yes, when the boat of our world was battered by the waves and the headwind, we could turn continually towards Christ (cf. Mt 14:24).

Meanwhile, the courses continued online by videoconferences. It was necessary to adapt quickly to the new way of working and to conform to it.

Rome: Sr. Lilly Pallipurath (Ranchi)

With great enthusiasm and anxiety I reached Rome, the eternal city, on 25th January 2020, to attend a Formators’ Program, organized by UISG (International Union of Superiors General). As we have no convents in Rome, my stay was arranged in a convent of the Poor Sisters of the Divine Providence.

We began with an orientation session on 29th January. We were 44 sisters of 27 nationalities, and representing 33 Congregations. The program was well designed with important topics like theology of religious life, intercultural competence, Discernment and Leadership, Digital culture & formation, and the like. We were very excited as we had a lot of interaction and sharing during the class and at break hours. We soon started living like a family with a lot of group activities, celebrations and daily chores.

Just one month into the program – everything changed! On 6th March we were told we couldn’t go to the Centre for classes! The impact of the now familiar pandemic started coming home to us without warning or preparedness. Our coordinator informed us that our classes now would be held on Zoom. Consequently, the course continued without any break. What we missed was meeting each other and the connectedness, although we continued with zoom group sharing, zoom prayer, zoom celebrations, etc. 

The news of the pandemic affected us and each one went through different experiences. The spread of Covid 19 in Italy and the rise of death toll shocked me. The news and images of people infected and died in Italy were depressing and at times filled me with fear and anxiety. Many of us could not sleep and all that we could hear was the siren of the ambulance. The only consolation was prayer – prayer from the depth, a cry from the heart, a quest for an answer, a search for a meaning as an SCJM in this situation. With tears in my eyes, prayer became more real. We were blessed to have Holy Mass everyday even during the lockdown. We had whole days of adoration that continued till the end of June. Praying for the people and anointing the sick through spiritual presence were the only simple things I could do for the sick and dying.

Through all this, when I count the blessings and regrets of Covid19 and the lockdown, I count more blessings than regrets. I got more time to reflect, assimilate and pray. I appreciate Sr. Lucy Jacob, our Superior General, and all the sisters who called and expressed their concern and support. Sr. Cynthia, our coordinator, and Sr. Patricia Murray, the Secretary of the UISG, took great care to listen to us, to share our feelings and to be with us during this time.

With interesting topics, new insights and learning, I got used to zoom classes. Sitting before the computer for 5 consecutive hours was not that easy. The course was very much focused on formation and very helpful for me as a person and in the ministry of formation.

All that we wanted and longed for was to come together once as a group before we left Rome. Yes, the lockdown was lifted and we were able to go for a retreat, take trip to Assisi and celebrate the concluding day on 26th June, with social distancing and respecting other rules and regulations.

The threat of the coronavirus has the whole world on a pause. So also with me, now held up in Rome! As I wait for the flights to resume, I try to make the waiting a joyful, meaningful and hopeful experience.

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