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Echoes from the Generalate during the Lockdown

When the spread of the coronavirus began appearing in the media, we didn’t realize that it had an agenda of invading the world with devastating effect on the lives of everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our society. We kept ourselves tuned to news channels for more information and understanding. Within weeks, when Belgium reported confirmed cases in the country, we had more reason to get alarmed. The government imposed lockdown on 18 March. We had no choice but to change and adapt our ways!

• We first of all came together as a community to share with and listen to each other of our feelings and thoughts and what the Lord may be telling us through the situation that the world is encountering today. All of us were unanimous that the Lord is there and is inviting us to listen and to hear: to hear with the ears of our hearts to the ways of God speaking to us through the devastating events happening around us and to adapt to new ways of being and doing.

• Joining Pope Francis’ meditation on the calming of the storm (Mk.3: 35-41) set the tone of our praying during this pandemic: The Lord is in-charge; faith in this presence frees us from fear and gives us hope, he said. Growing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters the world over, we started praying for the infected, their families, the dead and the bereaved, the front-line supporters, our leaders, scientists and researchers… Prayer became part of our very life! The Holy Week and Easter celebration took on a very unique tone as we spent the whole week in retreat and prayed intensely for our world and humanity.

JPEG - 897.3 kb• Daily Eucharist is now virtual, except for one day a week when our parish priest joins us, carefully maintaining social distance. We spend much more time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration; we nurture ourselves more frequently through Lectio Divina, and our daily prayers have their primary focus on the needs of our world today.

• The lockdown meant letting our lay-helpers stay home for their own & others’ health and protection. Everyone pitched in to make things moving: cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, gardening, etc. Each one of us learnt something more, something new: ways of cooking – thanks to the YouTube, maintenance, use of the vacuum cleaner, how to use the different cleaning products, on-line shopping, kitchen gardening, taking care of plants... JPEG - 3.2 Mb

• By the design of a Divine plan, to be sure, the general council members on mission were back in the Generalate before travel restrictions were imposed. The already scheduled meetings and visits for the months ahead had to be cancelled. However, they continued their regular meeting on matters related to the life of the Congregation. In some ways they were more occupied during the confinement than before: maintaining contacts with provinces/regions, getting connected and updated through social media channels such as WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom on the developing situation in each country of our presence, and changing, adapting & rescheduling events.

• In general, this lockdown situation gave us time to attend to things for which we had no time before: getting ourselves updated on various fronts, organizing files, tidying up cupboards and store rooms, clearing the house off cluttered things and the like.

JPEG - 979.9 kb• We have our moderate celebrations too: celebrations of Easter and Ascension, Labor Day, Mothers’ Day, Nurses’ Day, and birthdays of community members, including the birthday and Golden Jubilee of Sr. Birgit Goslain who was with for some days of the lockdown, adding joy to our life in community.

• There was also the daily visit to our garden of small groups of handicapped persons from an Institute nearby. During the lockdown, they were locked in too much that they needed a little fresh air and we were happy that they could walk in our gardens – maintaining social distance, of course. JPEG - 2.3 Mb

• This week, responding to the invitation of Pope Francis, we live the “Laudato Si’ Week” and join in on-line some of the events organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. One evening, we were in the garden to pray with and in creation. The ducks in our garden, who have now become friendlier, joined us and even tried to use our prayer leaflet! The fish in the pond came up to the surface as though they wanted to say Hi! The birds seem to sing with greater clarity and depth!

• In the face of this pandemic we can do nothing much for the suffering humanity except turning to God in prayer for healing and protection. We are ever grateful to God for the blessings of life and the facilities we enjoy: a spacious house, spiritual nourishment, the support of a community, a beautiful garden, and food on our table, while many are suffering in isolation, fear, poverty and sickness. Each morning we wake up with gratitude for the gift of life and all the gifts gratuitously given to us.

• As the lockdown measures are being lifted gradually, the country today records 56511 confirmed cases, 14123 recovered cases and 9212 deaths. We pray with our Pope that the Risen Lord may “dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of his glorious day, a day that knows no end”.

Sr. Valsam Jose

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