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An update on the situation of COVID-19 in the areas of SCJM Presence

Dear Sisters,

We are now past the shock and disbelief of the outbreak of the pandemic C-19. We have been trying to face it in faith, hope and courage. We have been listening to the God who is powerfully communicating with us through this deeply disturbing intervention in our lives. We continue praying for deliverance from this virus so as to go ahead with our life in full swing.

“NOT YET!” seems to be the indication as you will discover from the accounts below. The impact of a second wave of the virus is felt in several parts of the world, including the SCJM world.

What is more! An opinion that seems gaining strength among the analysts and commentators is that the coronavirus is here to stay and that we better be prepared to live with it in an agreeable manner! If this is the case, we need to further sharpen our listening faculties to hear the “still, small” voice of the Lord from within this situation and be prepared to take new and untrodden paths.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord tells us, “I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  We hold on firmly to this promise of the Lord as we move ahead!

Sr. Lucy Jacob

Brussels

Belgium

The country was beginning to limp back to some kind of a normal life when in mid-July reports of new cases began to appear. As this began to increase, it was clear that the second wave has begun to sweep over the country. The average daily infections stands at 371, an increase of 62% per week. Right now, Antwerp is the epicentre of the virus, and Brussels is given out to be the next. As a result, the government has tightened precautionary measures for at least the next four weeks, with new limits on contacts and events: social contacts are limited to five people; organised events are limited to 100 people; masks are compulsory at all events; shopping must be done alone again and the maximum shopping time of 30 minutes has also been reintroduced. 

Rwanda

Rwanda too shares with the rest of the world the effects of Corona, though compared to other countries it is not too bad. According to the recent account, there are 898 active cases of corona hospitalized at present; 918 have already been recovered, and in all 5 deaths have been reported.

In some of the parishes there is daily Mass, but only for the religious. The Sunday Mass is for all with all the required regulations. Severe punishments are given to people who do not obey the rules. So there is obedience at least out of fear. The traffic is allowed on the road till 9pm and all shops remain open till the evening. Schools still remain closed. All other works continue as usual. Complete lock down and quarantine continue in areas where there are more fresh cases. The frontiers to our neighbouring countries still remains closed.

But in Burundi, where we have one community, people seem to live in another world. Life is very normal as if nothing has happened: no masks, no social distancing, and no restrictions. People do die, but no one talks about Corona.

Pakistan

As the pandemic has hit only the major cities, most of the people have not taken it seriously. Despite the Lockdowns in different areas of the country, the people go about without masks. In some places, the fine is imposed and there the mask goes up as soon as one sees a policeman. The life seems to be normal except for the educational institutions. They remain closed and every other day a new date is announced for the reopening. All the banks, government institutes and shopping malls and shops do not let people in without the mask and hands sanitized.

The closing of the Educational Institutions has protected our children from the pandemic. Schools in the cities are having classes on line. Besides, the Government has started TV classes for different levels. The private schools, including ours, are having many financial difficulties as the government does not allow any employee to be sent off or to hold back the salaries.

The churches are still closed though some allow a limited number of the faithful for the Sunday Mass. We the SCJMs are lucky to have the Eucharistic Celebration quite frequently. We pray that God may deliver the whole world from this deadly plague and let us enjoy the normal way of living once again.

Vietnam

The people of Vietnam got back to normalcy from April 30th. Churches, schools, shops, and services are following their usual schedules. People began to feel secure again after a period of time living in fear and worries. Talks, news, discussions about Covid-19 seemed to be lesser and lesser in the country.

The summer holidays are here and when all were in the mood of vacation and relaxation, suddenly on July 25th, Vietnam’s first community transmission case was reported in Da Nang after 99 days without a new case reported. The patient who was tested positive did not have any travel history. It is still unclear how he contracted the virus. The latest eleven cases include seven patients and four medical staff linked to Da Nang Hospital. At the moment, the city of Da Nang is applying the strictest social distancing measures of lockdown. 

In other parts of the country, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, people are again cautious about the seriousness of the transmission of Covid-19. Masks are required in all public places. Local police are visiting houses and hostels to make sure that all measures are taken to prevent infection, including our communities. Social gatherings are once again banned.

Churches, religious communities and the faithful are in constant prayer for the healing of the world from coronavirus.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been efficacious so far in responding to early warnings of Covid-19. At present the country is in the process of closely monitoring the situation and strengthening preparedness to respond effectively to combat any incoming situation.

More than six months into this pandemic, Sri Lanka has made an enormous progress in controlling the spread of COVID-19. For the past four months, the Government, together with medical officials and the Tri-forces, have taken various measures to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 is minimized within the island. The support given by the public by obeying the rules and regulations and maintaining the good order and discipline has been of great help.

It can be assumed that Sri Lanka is very close to victory over this pandemic. Schools are being re-opened in a phased-out manner after a closure of 115 days. The parliamentary elections will be held in August with strict health measures and guidelines.

Today, the total confirmed cases stands at 2,810 with 503 active cases. 2,296 cases recovery and 11 deaths are notified.

The changing lifestyles of the post-pandemic “new normalcy” may prove to be a challenge for many, especially where transportation, employment and day to day needs are concerned.

India

The Corona Virus pandemic still continues to rage its fury in the Indian sub-continent. There is a decline in new cases in certain states; however it surges on in other states. The southern states of India that fared well in controlling it in the beginning are now faced with local and community transmission. Delhi which stood almost at the top of the ladder is now seeing a decline in new cases. As of now, India has a total 1.5 million cases (1.583.156) with a death toll of 34.224. A good number of them are being cured as well. In spite of the lock down of selected areas and travel restrictions within the country, life goes on and all are trying to learn to live with it with necessary precautions. As far as education is concerned, online classes are going on in full swing. A few other activities are also resumed.

In all this, the poor are the ones who suffer the most with no work and having no means for sustaining their families. Many are stricken with fear, anxiety and worry, not only of the virus but about their future.

Ranchi city, the capital of Jharkhand, is one of the hotspots for positive cases. However, many private hospitals in the state have been closed down due to lack of facilities to treat covid 19 patients and some have been sealed off for treating the infected ones without taking adequate precaution. The Mercy Hospital in Jamshedpur was kept open for general patients and it was a respite for the people of Jamshedpur. Although we had prepared isolation rooms for covid cases in case of emergency, we were not totally prepared to treat infected ones. By mid-July, when hospital staff members started getting infected and patients tested positive, they had to be isolated and those who came in contact with them quarantined. This meant less number of staff members and closure of the concerned departments. Before long the hospital had to be closed down too - on 22nd July. 

The entire hospital was cleaned and sanitised during this period of total closure. It was fumigated as per the government rule and is now ready to admit new patients. Sisters are confident that everything will go well when the hospital reopens although there is also fear and anxiety and a sense of uncertainty as the Covid 19 situation in the state is moving from bad to worse.

In a situation where we cannot do much, the SCJMs hold on to the Lord in hope. We continue to storm the heavens that the Lord may have compassion on our world. What gives us the impetus and confidence is the trust we have in God that without His knowledge nothing happens and He will take care of those who care for others.

Philippines

We are very much grateful to God Almighty who continuously take care of us and for His providential care, love and protection.

There are some 89,374 confirmed cases in the country today. Around 65,064 have been recovered; and the death toll is 1,983. Both the national and local governments responded to the pandemic with various declarations of emergency, closure of schools and public meetings, lockdowns, and other estrictions intended to slow down the progress of the virus. The challenges of each day keep reminding and creating an awareness in us to the reality of life around us, especially as we see how the poor are becoming poorer each day. The reopening of schools is postponed as new cases are being reported. Children have online classes though few are able to benefit from this. The sick are advised to remain in their own homes and be looked after.

During these difficult times, we are invited to face these challenges as an invitation for our own conversion and to renew our faith in God.

Congo

On 18 March, at midnight, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced a state of health emergency because of the cases of Covid-19 detected in Kinshasa on 10 March 2020. He urged all his people to observe some measures to prevent the Pandemic.

The state of emergency was lifted on 21 July. On that date, the President announced the resumption of classes, starting with the final year of primary, secondary, high schools and university, from 03/08/2020, and from 15/08, the reopening of churches and places of worship, migration and interprovincial movements, the reopening of ports, airports, and all borders, and the reopening of discotheques, stadiums and theatres. For funerals, the provisions remain the same and are strictly enforced.

In addition, he stressed that thanks to the efforts of the response team, the mortality rate has fallen from 11% to 2.4%. The mortality trend is declining during this month of July. The DRC ranks 9th in Africa in terms of cases detected and 12th in terms of deaths.

The return to normal life is authorized, in compliance with the barrier measures and following the modalities set by the response team: temperature control at each entry, hand washing, mandatory wearing of masks in public places, regular disinfection of places of activity...

On 29/07/2020, the official media communicated the following statistics: 9,010 infected cases, 437 recovered cases and 215 deaths.

Mali

To date, Mali has reported 2520 infected, 75 deaths, and 1919 recovered cases. The state continues to trace possible infected cases in the country and directs its people towards remaining calm and respecting all precautionary measures. However, not everyone pay sufficient attention to this.

The schools are reopened. The public transport system was never affected. The airport is scheduled to open soon.

We continue interceding for our suffering world.

England

The current pandemic continues, and seems unstoppable here in the United Kingdom as elsewhere in the world. People, especially the most vulnerable, are genuinely and understandably frightened, since as yet there is no ‘miracle drug’ or vaccine available to combat this virus. The ongoing research in the various institutions, including Oxford to mention but one, gives some glimmer of hope on the horizon.

However, the anxiety about the potential spread of the disease is heightened, when on Thursday July 30th. the fact that the number of Corona cases in the Country was 28% more than on the first of the month. Our mortality is certainly thrown into sharper focus during this extremely uncertain period of time.

Following on from that, this morning’s news quoted our Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson as saying, he was “squeezing the brake pedal” on easing lockdown after infections doubled in a month. His statement really sums up succinctly the whole situation. This was the day many businesses were due to reopen; instead it seems that the country has probably reached near the limits of what can be done to return to life as normal for now. One wonders if life will ever again be what we understand as normal, or will we rather be talking about Covid-19 normal.

Ireland

According to the latest statistics, Ireland has 26,027 confirmed cases of C-19 and 1763 Covid related deaths. The latest figures show that the pandemic has re-emerged in the country. Over a two-day period the country moved from a relatively stable epidemiology to a significant pattern connected to outbreaks. All are advised to be really careful and adhere to public health advice so to avoid further spread of the virus. Vigilance and precautionary measures are to be observed. 


June 24th celebration in Muanda - D. R. Congo

On the evening of 23rd June, a climate of recollection was recommended. The next morning, we woke up in joy. Everything seemed beautiful to us, and the song of the birds invited us to praise, to sing, and to admire the greatness and love of God towards us, his creatures. The 24th of June, an important date for the SCJM Congregation, commemorates the death of Father Peter-Joseph Triest, our founder.

For a number of years, in the D.R. Congo, and more particularly in the Province of St. Bernard, this commemoration has been crowned by the first religious vows of novices who finished their formation and the renewal of vows of young sisters in different communities. Since the Congolese population is obliged, since 19/03/2020, to live in lockdown because of COVID-19, in order to avoid any risk of contamination by this pandemic disease, this Wednesday 24/06/2020 was celebrated according to the initiatives and realities of each community.

The members of our community of Notre Dame d’Afrique in Muanda-sur-mer celebrated a thanksgiving Mass to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of religious vocation in a special way. In this way, each Sister celebrated the number of years of religious life that is proper to her: 61 years for Sister Christiane KAPINGA, 53 years for Sister Elisabeth ONGADI, 36 years for Sister Scholastica NGALULA, 30 years for Sister Jacqueline MVIKA, 29 years for Sister Jeanne Claudine MBUYI, 12 years for Sister Marcelline MAMBWE, 11 years for Sister Marie Reine BOKWE, 8 years for Sister Ivonne KUNDJI, and 2 years for Sister Madeleine MBIDI who also renewed her vows for one year. Mass was concelebrated by three priests from our parish.

Immediately after the morning Eucharistic celebration, we were all invited for breakfast. At 1:30 pm, the community shared a festive meal with the priests of the parish and two hospital officials.

It should be noted that the entire organisation was done in strict respect of the barrier gestures to avoid the spread of coronavirus. We felt and observed the joy that inhabited each one of us. Here are some pictures of the event:

 

 

Sr. Marcelline MAMBWE


Let’s take care of one another

Dear Sisters,

Given below is a message for all of us to take to heart, pray, reflect and personalise. It is addressed to us by the presidents of the UISG (Union of Superiors General – women’s section) and USG (men’s section).

The message centres around three key points: listening, concern, and care – a Scriptural answer for our life today, during these pandemic times.

I would like to invite you to spend some quality time with this message and make an appropriate response to this call.

Sr. Lucy Jacob

Brussels

 


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.


LUBUMBASHI / St Vincent Province, DR Congo

As though the C-19 pandemic was not bad enough, Lubumbashi is also faced with what is suspected to be a tribal conflict. Being conscious of its potential danger, the archbishop of Lubumbashi exhorts his flock to not to lose hope and find courage and strength in the Lord. Here below Sr. Beatrice Tshilemba gives us a résumé of his pastoral letter. One more intention to place before the Lord !

Moved by concern for the people, sharing the same sufferings and in virtue of the prophetic mission linked to his pastoral charge, His Excellency the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lubumbashi addressed a message to the Catholic faithful, the political-administrative authorities and the security forces, men and women of good will, dated 19 May 2020, entitled: "I have seen the suffering of my people and have heard their cry" (Exodus 3:7).

In addition to all the suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation in the province of Haut Katanga in general and in the city of Lubumbashi in particular is both dramatic and traumatic. Not a night goes by, the Archbishop said, without hearing that rapes, thefts, killings and armed robberies are being committed, mainly on the outskirts of the city where modest populations live. Worse still, burglaries, robberies and killings take place even during the day before the helpless eyes of those who are supposed to protect the population. 

This situation is a source of concern and raises some questions among the population, namely: Who are these people who operate with impunity? Do they have hidden agendas? What are their sources of arms, ammunition and vehicles? Who benefits from all these crimes?

The Archbishop points out that the population is facing two formidable enemies: the Coronavirus and the armed bandits who both bring insecurity.

Thus the Archbishop calls for vigilance and solidarity. He asks the people not to lose their trust in God because "hope does not deceive" (Rm 5:5) and to never forget that "unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen watch in vain" (Ps 127:1). "May the Lord be our protector and support" (Sir 51:1-2). "People of Upper Katanga, be strong and stand firm" (Cfr. Joshua 1:7). "May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace, intercede for us and may the Almighty protect and bless our Province! »

It is therefore a message of peace, hope and comfort, in this disastrous situation, that the Archbishop of Lubumbashi, Monsignor Jean Pierre TAFUNGA, addresses to the Catholic faithful and to the Katangese population.


24 June 2020

24 June remains etched in the heart of every one of us!

At the point of his departure for his heavenly home, Father Triest’s last message to us was:
“Give and it will be given to you!”

His own life was nothing but an enduring gesture of GIVING as is evident in these words of his:
“I owe you my waking hours, all possible efforts, my rest … every hour of the day or night, and even when the roads are long, difficult and muddy …
I am happy when I, in imitation of Jesus, my Master,
may sacrifice my rest, my health, and even my life for you.”

If Father Triest were to walk and work in our present context of the global pandemic,
what would have been his response?

As we celebrate 24 June 2020, let us keep in mind that
God loves a “cheerful giver”!


Sr. Lucy Jacob
Generalate, Brussels
24 June 2020

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!


Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,

the feast of our Congregation!

May we be enriched by the treasures that are hidden in the Heart of Jesus

and be made channels of this wealth
to all those around us during this time of global crisis!


Sr. Lucy Jacob Palliam Pallithura
Superior General
19 June 2020

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

VIETNAM: WE ARE HOPE FOR THE WORLD!

When I think of hope, I think of a dark place, at the corner of the house, far from everyone’ the eyes, and there is a small ray of light. That is hope!

Life was moving smoothly. We thought ‘all is well and all shall be well’! There was joy and laughter everywhere. Suddenly, we got the news of a little virus called CORONA attacked our beautiful world and whole life came into a standstill. The pandemic did not spare any single individual; did not give any time to get prepared; but yes, life took a very unexpected turn. Everyone was left with their hands tied before this pandemic.

Surviving the virus, living in lockdown, rising unemployment, artificial price hikes and news about unexpected deaths from every corner of the world have already made the future seem very insecure.

In our country the story is entirely different. Truth is safeguarded under the carpet! An announcement was made in public places on taking precautions and to staying safe. At the same time, they left no stones unturned to attribute all honor and glory unto themselves, saying that the whole world is looking upon us and that only this country is CORONA free, and so on. Yes, the Government was alert from the beginning and did take action but what they say is not the whole truth.

Here we are not involved directly in any charitable work. During the period of social distancing we were at home. We were well provided with food, mask, sanitizer and other necessary things. The only thing we could do better was to pray: we prayed for the people affected by the virus and we sent vibrations of peace everyday as we spent time in adoration. We all stayed at home, made use of the time learning different things. Often we shared our thoughts and feelings with one another and felt enriched by it. We became a source of encouragement to one another. But how long?

We were shaken in our faith; fear started to grip us as we heard from different sources that the world population is diminishing; the economy is going down, and the like. No work, no food, many deaths, people can’t move, they die in a foreign land… without their dear ones - what is more painful than that? In this gloomy atmosphere, where is hope? Where is small ray of light?

There was a moment when we did feel low and hopeless.

We began strengthening our inner self. On one Sunday, our Placide community, had a meditation based on Deut. 6:3-9,13b (Listen, then, Israel, observe these commandments and put them into practice. If you do this, you will be well and you will multiply in this land flowing with milk and honey as Yahweh, the God of your Fathers, promised you. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today. Repeat them over and over to your children, speak of them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign, and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates. Fear Yahweh your God, serve Him and call on His name.)

Believing in the power of Jesus’ name we drew and wrote the name of “Jesus” in different forms and figures and put them in and around the house, in the garden, on the trees, on our beds and all possible places. When we did that a thought came to me, “God loves us so dearly, surely He will save us. What we need to do is to have a firm faith in Him.”

All through we experienced the providence of God towards us as a little community. We also were inspired by our benefactors and being aware of the needs of our people around us, we kept a piggy bank and saved some amount from our pocket money and by skipping a meal. We were thinking how to reach out to the neediest.

One day Fr. Andy, an OCD priest, came to us and started narrating the struggle of the Philipino community residing in Ho Chi Minh City. Because of the lockdown they had no job, had no money to pay their rent, nothing to eat, no money for the last rite of a person who died with Covid-19, and many other different needs. We as a community decided at once that our little help would be a consolation to these needy ones, and so we joined Fr. Andy’s community for this purpose. We feel happy that we have become a drop in the ocean - that is, living love in a very practical way and bringing hope to others by helping them honestly and respectfully. No matter what the amount is, sharing it brings in double amount of joy. A small gesture but great meaning. It teaches me a big lesson of generosity. I feel blissful when I think of it. We are not able to do great charitable work but we can do a small acts of love in a great way.

With all these I have realized that hope is within our heart. It shines out through our sharing and charitable work. In the community itself we create a ray of hope to one another by being a graceful companion. I have learned and practiced many good things during this time and so I dare to say: Hope sparkles when love and faith come together. I am a hope. You are a hope. We are hope for one another. All of us are the hope for the world. Let us keep our faith and trust in God that our hope will never be dimmed. Let us pray for one another that all may hear the whispering of the Lord: “I am hope for all who are hopeless. I am the eyes for all who long to see. In the shadows of the night, I will be your light, come and rest in me!

Maria TRẦN Bích Oanh, 2nd year postulant

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

St. Bernard, Congo: "GOD WILL PROVIDE"

In D.R. Congo, on March 10, 2020, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the capital Kinshasa and precisely in the Commune of La Gombe where our community is located.

On March 24th, the President of the Republic, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, declared a state of health emergency. Three days were given to the population to get supplies because, for the Commune of la Gombe, the lockdown would begin on 06 April 2020, for two weeks. As the number of Covid-19 cases is increasing, the State has extended the lockdown to date.

Our ordeal began at the time of making purchases. The market was full of people and food was becoming very scarce and very expensive. We didn’t quite understand where all this would lead us or what we were going to do!

At the beginning of the lockdown, we had to go out to buy vegetables. On the way, we were stopped by the police at the central station of Kinshasa because we were two in our vehicle and we had only one access badge. After an hour’s exchange with the police, who would not let us go, we appealed to the mayor of the commune of La Gombe who came to our rescue. Because of this incident, we decided not to go out anymore and to be satisfied with what we could have at home.

The flame of Eucharistic fervor was not extinguished in our house. The Jesuit Fathers who are our neighbours did not hesitate for a single moment to continue to say Mass in our chapel in this time of lockdown. They took turns day after day so that we could have the Eucharist while respecting social distancing. During the daily Eucharistic celebrations, the lay people who are used to joining us are unfortunately deprived of access to our chapel.

During this confinement, the situation around us seems difficult: vulnerable people are crying with hunger and looking for food, including the police and guards assigned to guard the neighbouring offices, who have nothing to eat. They all head towards our community to beg for food. In solidarity with our people, we share what little we have with them.

Since we were more concerned about this situation, and since we cannot cope with it alone, we made a request for assistance to the Diaconia Service of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa which responded positively. We received some food.
In our turn, we made packets and distributed to each of these vulnerable people. The people were so happy and thankful to us for that gesture. Hope radiated on their faces. Part of the food received was also shared with the forty-five pregnant women and women in childbirth at our Mwinda Health Centre in Sanga Mamba and twenty malnourished children.

We experienced the words of our Founder, "God will provide". We saw how the faces that were saddened regained joy, smiles and strength. We also took the opportunity to sensitize them to the need to respect the measures taken by the Congolese State to protect themselves against Covid-19. We also encouraged the adults not to lose hope or become discouraged. All were in admiration.

This difficult time of Covid-19 pandemic had plunged us into sadness and stress. The annual retreat during this time was very beneficial for us and gave us the courage to move forward and do what we can while respecting the barrier gestures.

We have regained courage and strength. We are full of hope and ready to look for ways and means to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. We have begun to raise awareness among those who come to us, comfort them, give them hope and tell them to rely on Divine Providence because God will provide at all times.

Sister Wivine MBOMBO

SCJM in Ranchi help bring solace to Migrants


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

South Africa (Province of St. Vincent de Paul)

It was like a dream: we heard about a virus that causes a serious respiratory disease in China, in the city of Wuhan, and that killed many people, including a doctor. We had a feeling of fear and compassion for the Chinese people, without imagining that the famous virus was going to cross borders, without a visa, to reach other continents. A few months later, the news reached our ears: the virus had already landed in some African countries, including South Africa, our country of mission.

During this time of lockdown, we are in the house. We had the opportunity to pray a lot for the world, to do adoration in turn, throughout the day, to offer the whole world to the Lord, and more especially the people infected by Coronavirus, the health workers, the heroes who risked their lives to save the lives of others. This time of lockdown challenges us and invites us to always turn our gaze to the Most High, Almighty Master of life, and to think of the poorest who have nothing to eat at home.

At West Rand, in the house for pregnant girls, the Sisters accompanied the girls in labour to the maternity ward. We even saw the birth of a baby during this time of lockdown.

East Rand Brakpan is one of our homes for the elderly, sick and abandoned women. During the lockdown, all the workers were confined to their families, while the Sisters who work in this home remained in the Centre, serving the elderly women who are sick and abandoned by their families. The Sisters provide all the services: cooking, cleaning, daily care for the women and taking those who are sick to the hospital. During this time of lockdown, we even lost one of our residents, she was found dead in her bed in the morning. In spite of the work and fatigue, the dimension of prayer was not given up.

The Lord opened His Generous Hand by sending us donors in order to help the poor. We received food and went out into the streets and the shops around to distribute it to the poor. Or we would invite some poor families to come and get something to eat. We did this very carefully to avoid infection.

Miracles also happened: at the beginning of the lockdown, a catering firm that prepares meals for airlines sent two large refrigerated trucks to deliver food and prepared dishes. This helped us to feed people. Another time, a large truck full of nappies arrived at our Centre to deliver about 5,526 nappies for our residents, not to mention the other people who come every day to drop off something for the poor. The Lord really blessed us in a special way during this time of lockdown.

We experience the presence of God very tangibly in this time of crisis in the world and especially next to us where the cry of the poor is heard. God is there to comfort us and give us hope. We never cease to thank Him for the miracles of each day.

Sister Marie-Josée Ntumba

Region of Mali

On 16/05/20, the Minister of Health informed us of a total of 835 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 48 deaths, 479 recoveries, and 1838 people affected and lockdown was imposed. We, SCJM of the Region of Mali, stick to the measures of hygiene (hand washing, masks…) and social distancing.

And how do we experience this ’corona’ atmosphere? Schools are closed, but of course the Health Centre continues its work. The children talk about ’continuous strike’: for almost 2 years, the public schools have been on strike because of the teachers’ complaints.

On the radio, they talk about ’corona’ and they are silent about the war... However, more than ever, the attacks continue with many civilian victims... The macabre situation continues: Covid-19 victims, victims of banditry and terrorism. And already people talk about ’soon’: post-Corona victims, i.e. victims of famine, economic crisis, unemployment, insufficient schooling.

Never have we lived such a time of Lent... Even less a time of Passion and Easter without the faithful, without baptisms... In union with the whole Congregation, the Sisters of our Region made a retreat during Holy Week. Most of the Sisters had never experienced a retreat without a preacher. To their great surprise, they discovered the richness of Lectio Divina shared every day. The main theme for each day was: Jesus of Nazareth. Thus, together we shared the Passion of Christ, which is more than ever, now also, the Passion of our world: to follow Jesus in his suffering is also to keep all our suffering brothers and sisters in our prayer. To go through the Passion with Him is to know that at the end there is Life, because Jesus is Alive... It is an experience of faith that has marked us. What a grace to become even more aware that we are SCJM, Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary... (The “C” of Charity prompted me to add: Companions of Jesus, the Living, the Risen One).

Yes, this is an unforgettable time for all of us. We continue to pray for the sick...

Sister Marguerite Tubale

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

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

Anglo-Irish Region

In the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic - Covid 19, we experienced a period of shock, disbelief and fear, as we began to hear through the media the horror that this tiny, invisible piece of matter was causing throughout the world and especially when the first death in Ireland was reported.

We were asked to stay at home in Ireland from mid-March and keep social distancing. We therefore closed our doors to all who come to Suaimhneas for therapies, meditation, and courses. This shock took days to settle as we watch and listened incessantly to all news and media coverage that filled our community. It took some days to reconcile that this virus was here and will visit many places through its stay. How we respond to this new visitor is important for our survival as a human family.

In the midst of the initial fear and uncertainty, our leaders in Ireland set the scene. As a community, we began to feel the influence of their leadership and their capacity to convey a sense of calm but measured response. We felt ‘held’ in what seemed an impossible situation. Their honesty, transparency and lack of political rhetoric gave us hope. We were all in this together was the constant message. Their request to us was to actively participate in our own context, to stay at home, keep safe, maintain social/physical distance, to support one another and to give a sense of hope and encouragement in the small but essential ways. People throughout the country are responding to this in many unique and admirable ways.

With the security that we are being held in hope and trust, we see this time as an opportunity for us to be practical and creative. We began to reorganise our lives around this new experience

  • We began to engage with the fear that family, friend and SCJM community of contacting the virus in a more constructive way. To find new ways of supporting and feeling supported in our physical distancing through technology. Remaining connected while staying apart.
  • Suaimhneas that was once filled with activity, was now busy on the phone, WhatsApp or Zoom, connecting to others in support.
  • We continued our mediation program through video recordings of the sessions.
  • Supporting people on the phone who are finding this period difficult and arranging professional referrals as appropriate.
  • Supporting the frontline staff in hospitals and care areas by our prayers, letters and cards of thanks.
  • Through Networks we were able to support an initiative that provided the local hospitals and nursing homes with well-deserved and needed practical items to make life a little easier for staff; e.g. kettle, sandwich makers, etc.
  • We are full of gratitude for springtime that we can have this time in the garden, to plant, to weed and to tend to the soil. We have the time to observe and listen to the daffodils and tulips speak to us of its fragility and essence, reminding us of the cycle of life.

Many had been asking the question where God is in all of this. God is suffering with us and speaks to us in the helping hand, the sacrifice that one is making to make another safe and in the promise of spring as is revealed to us through nature every morning. God is in the invitation to look again at our priorities and how we value life at all stages.

Perhaps this is the opportunity afforded to us to listen to the Earth and enable us to experience the God of Love, Compassion and Tenderness in and through the whole of humanity.

Kathleen O’Meara, in the poem below, seems to capture the opportunities contained in our present situation:

And people stayed home and read books and listened
and rested and exercised and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and stopped and listened deeper
someone meditated, someone prayed
someone danced
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choicesand dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of lifeand healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.

Sent by Sisters Anne Lynch and Mai Finlay


To be continued...

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

Ranchi

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...

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

Belgian South Province

Some experiences of our Sisters:

  • From the bedside of a dying man:


May you be blessed, Mr. Adrien!
You are among our elders. It’s not long since I met you and we’ve had some important moments together. You came to the dining room not knowing how to express yourself very well, but your eyes radiated kindness. You did not come any more and, passing along your room, I saw you very slimmed down. Afterwards, looking at you from afar, I realized that your eyes were already turning towards the unknown. Your breathing was panting. I sat down next to you. My gaze went from your face to the sheep grazing in the meadow, they just had to lower their head, look down and there was fresh grass under their feet. A ray of sunshine, and peace was complete. Your eyes looked down at me, and I was overwhelmed … Then it came to my mind to turn to our Father.
And I said: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Spirit who unites them, I forgive you all your weaknesses.”
I dared, yes! There are no more priests. There has been a return among us to simplicity, to truth.
You are gone, Mr. Adrien, do not forget us, neither your wife nor your two children.
See you soon.

  • While scrupulously respecting to all the instructions, one SCJM made a large poster and went to hold it up in front of a Nursing Home that she used to visit and bring communion to the elderly. In this way she wanted to spontaneously thank and encourage all the staff so heroically devoted to the vulnerable. Several caregivers expressed their gratitude for this fraternal sign.
  • Two SCJMs, residents of a Rest Home, are concerned about the overworked staff and try to support them as much as they can. They participate and animate moments of conviviality, help a few residents who can no longer eat on their own and try to spread good humour around them. In these difficult days, they are gifts for this House which they consider as their own.
  • Two SCJM communities have joined a popular initiative: every evening at 8:00 p.m., they ring the bells of their chapel as a sign of thanks to all those who take risks to relieve and care for the victims of Covid-19.
  • The telephone has become a precious and irreplaceable channel for meetings. It allows the Province to live more concretely a fraternal communion already lived in prayer. It brings courage and hope to the Sisters and to those relationships that suffer most from confinement. It is a remedy against depressing solitude, strengthens bonds and allows us to live joyfully the solicitude that each one needs.


Sri Lanka

As 2020 began to blossom, the news that kept coming from Wuhan was disturbing. Yet none of us thought that it would cross the borders. So, we were shocked to realise that Covid-19 did cross and made its entry into our own country and has already started making its claim on our lives. We were puzzled not knowing how to handle this new situation. There were more questions than answers. News coming from the European countries was disheartening. The world had come to a stand-still.

As we were journeying during the season of Lent, we were reminded of the journey of Exodus. The faith deep within us was strengthening us to walk forward to the promise land but the reality just in front of us tend to make us lose our hope. Houses, villages, towns and cities were locked down. Life became so hard, especially for the very poor.

Many of us made a spiritual journey through an online retreat during the Holy Week. It was a different Holy Week from any other we had in our life time. In spirit, we embraced the whole world, especially the victims of coronavirus, their families, the medical personnel and hospital staff, the leaders of the country, security forces, and so on. We found courage in the Divine Providence and felt strengthened by the moto ‘Give! It will be given to you’. We shared with the poor what we could afford. We heard the cry of the poor and we were urged to embrace them in Charity. We shared dry rations and vegetables with the needy. This act of charity brought smile on their faces and hope in their life. Assistance was offered over phone to those who were in fear and panic; consolation to the family members who had lost their loved ones. As Pope Francis tells us, “In hopeless situations of pain and suffering, God never abandons His children but rather remains close to them”. We are happy that at least in some small ways we too could bring some hope to the victims of COVID 19.

To be continued...

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

Anglo-Irish Region

The hospital management where I work as a Chaplain began its preparation for the possible devastating impact of the Coronavirus in January 2020.

In February I began to realise the seriousness of this disease when all staff, including myself received training in the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). It was this training, together with news from the WHO that I began to realise the seriousness of the disease.

We all had to help each other during this time. Waves of fear were palpable among all staff including senior consultants. Many felt that they would rather be anywhere else but working in the hospital environment. However, in a strange way there is power in this fear and we helped each other in confronting this fear. … The words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu written in 1931 were inspiring. “All of us experience fear but when we confront and acknowledge it, we are able to turn it into courage. Being courageous do not mean never being scared; it means acting as you know you must even though you are undeniable afraid.”

As a Chaplain I received many requests for prayers. When a very dedicated staff member who got infected began to recover, many expressed their renewed belief in the power of prayer and gave thanks.

All staff now wear Protective Clothing Equipment (PPE). These suits are incredibly difficult to wear and work in. We have to help each other to dress and even more importantly help each other to undress out of them. The fear of picking up infection or passing on infection is a big worry and challenging.

My role at this time is very varied: visiting the ward each day, organising the sacrament of anointing for patients, supporting relatives and staff, helping staff dress in PPE... we are all in this together, colleagues supporting one another.

Communicating a caring, compassionate presence is a vital role for nurses, doctors, social workers and chaplains in caring for patients and family. The inability to do so in the usual manner when wearing this PPE ‘goes against the grain’. This caring presence can and is so difficult when dressed in this way. Simple eye contact is difficult when goggles being worn are all steamed up. How the patients and families are experiencing this and what the patients think of us has not yet been revealed. But it must be one of great fear.

In the midst of this very stressful situation, small act of kindness and concern for staff working on the front line here at the hospital goes a long way to brighten the otherwise very difficult day. The public are so generous to us at the hospital, giving money, bring food, supplying PPE, providing toasters, kettles, coffee makers, bottled of water. The staff feel their support and all these acts of generosity help to make life a little easier for staff.

Prayer has become a much more important part of the support and healing within the hospital. The small prayer team I invited to pray in our hospital oratory includes our local Priests, Church of Ireland Minister, our Bishop and myself was a response to this need. Each of them felt privileged to be invited to help the staff who feel supported and held in prayer. For the seven days each week, one of the prayer team is in the oratory praying for those affected by the virus.

A candle of staff solidarity remains burning night and day for all those whose lives we touch in the course of our work at this difficult time. Many staff have commented on how they feel supported in this prayer.

Visiting to the hospital is limited now to those in the final hours of life and now part of end of life care. We can only allow two visitors per family at the moment. All family members visit in the knowledge that they could pick up the virus. They all must also wear full protective equipment, which adds to their distress.

I spend time each day making contact with bereaved families, whose loved ones have died as a result off Covid-19. Most report on how sad they felt about not being able to say goodbye. This and the lack of ritual of a funeral and the customary support from other family member and friends make this time very distressing indeed. They experience a lonely and isolating time. This makes the process of grieving very difficult and complicated.

I question myself: What is this virus communicating to us? Will we understand the lessons we have to learn? Maybe our wonderful environment is speaking to us now loud and clear.

To conclude, I try to stay in the moment because if I look to the near future where scientists are still struggling to find a vaccine and our people are dying … I do feel fear.

However, I do feel that our government leaders and medical personnel are showing great leadership in their management of our country. They keep us informed each day of what their plans are, the direction and decisions that they were making in the light of what is best practice and what the WHO is recommending. This kind of leadership has been so welcomed and respected by the people of Ireland. We feel we are in safe hands and all citizens are being cared for with great respect.

The support I feel from my Sisters in the Region is just wonderful. This is a great strength for me in my ministry. I feel proud to be a Sister of Charity of Jesus and Mary as I stand in solidarity and hope with all our sisters around the world at this time in history in the congregation united together in prayer and love.

(Sent by Sr. Mary Lalor)

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

In response to an initiative taken by the UISG for sharing stories of hope, our provinces and regions were invited to send in such stories. Presented in the form of reports, not stories in the real sense of the term, they are very enlightening, encouraging and inspiring. They speak to us of an integral part of our life in the Congregation today. So, we will post them here, one by one. The following is the account that came from the province of Delhi, the first one to arrive.

Challenges to live our Charism

The Corona Virus entered India on 30th January 2020 when a student who returned from Wuhan in China was tested positive. Just before its arrival, the country was already going through a terrible time due to the recently enacted amendments in the parliament: the CAA (Citizens Amendment Act), NRC (National Registration of Citizens) and NPR (National Population Registration). As these were interpreted as discriminatory, people rose in revolt, resulting in much violence and bloodshed, even riots.

Against this background, the country was suddenly gripped by the pandemic, which called for immediate attention and action. Overnight, the Central Government announced 21 days of lock down which left countless people helpless. However, God did not abandon them to despair. There were hundreds who reached out to them as torch bearers with a ray of hope.

The SCJMs of the Delhi Province have their own stories to tell of being such rays of hope for those who are groping in darkness.

1. The riot victims: The riots were primarily seen in Delhi, the national capital. The provincialate community reached out to the suffering humanity who were driven away of their homes. We joined hands with the archdiocese of Delhi, the Conference of Religious India (CRI), NGOs and other volunteers who came forward to alleviate the situation.

  • Along with other priests, religious, social activists, journalists and religious leaders, some of our Sisters expressed their solidarity by joining a sit-in-strike in the capital,
  • Some of us personally visited the camps and spent time with the riot victims. They listened to their heart renting experiences and counseled them.
  • The province offered financial help for those in dire need.

Though what is done is like a drop in the occasion, our presence must have definitely been a ray of hope for the victims of inhumanity.

2. The Corona Virus Pandemic: We were aware of the virus spreading but never thought that it would become a global crisis. Gradually the country realized the need for preparedness and to take preventive measures to ward off the virus from spreading. The national lockdown declared for 21 days caused many problems, particularly for migrant & construction workers, daily wage earners and others on the margins. We were witnessing heart-rending sights on the roads in front of the provincial house where crowds of migrant-workers were on foot, trying to reach their homes, hundreds of miles away in most cases. There were still thousands left behind without shelter and food. To this suffering humanity we could reach out in some ways, we thought.

Some of our communities had already started reaching out to those who had nothing much to eat. Soon all other communities also found their own ways of being a ray of hope to the helpless. 26 communities sprang into action to help in all possible ways, such as:

  • Distributing ration or offering financial help for treatment.
  • Joining hands with those who were providing food in sheltered facilities.
  • Making our school buildings available for quarantine purpose.

We were trying to be Good Samaritans to all those who were in need without distinction of caste, creed, religion, age or gender. These gestures of generosity, empathy, and solidarity with the affected people were sowing seeds of hope for the hopeless.

3. Solidarity with our “Lifeline”: Adhering to the words of Fr. Triest who said, “always accomplish your works of Charity in a spirit of faith, with your eyes fixed on God” we turned to God, our Lifeline. The last month had been a time of intense prayer, not only for the victims of corona but also for asking God for mercy upon us and the whole humanity for our sins, failures and short comings which have caused our Mother Earth to mourn under its weight. We are sure the Lord who labors with us during this world-wide crisis will enable us to continue to be a ray of hope.

In the depth of darkness when God seems concealed, the transforming light and hope of God is revealed through the committed and dedicated services of all health care supporters, government servants, NGOs, volunteers, priests, religious, donors and others whom our Fr. Triest would consider as “ gods on earth, and angels of God ”. May God, our Lifeline, continue to inspire us to walk in solidarity with the distressed people at this critical time of humankind!

To be continued...

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, ...it’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.


The Challenge of Covid-19 for SCJMs around the world

All of us lived through a very unique experience of the Paschal Mystery this year. The Lord met us, renewed and empowered us in and through the virtual world!

During the Holy Week, we had an exceptional experience of communion within the congregation and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the world, confronting the realities of Covid-19, through our retreat on the theme of the Week. In a world that is severely being tested, the message of this Easter rings out loud and clear, dispelling all anxiety and fear. In the words of Pope Francis, at this Easter “we acquire a fundamental right that can be never taken away from us: the right to hope” (Easter Vigil Homily).

Expressions of interest and concern keep coming from various parts of the Congregation to know how we are, both here in the Generalate and in Belgium. Always, the power-bank of prayerful support accompanying every message, letter or call!

The situation in Belgium still remains critical with 30589 confirmed cases and 3903 deaths to-date (13th). The lockdown in force is likely to get extended and we continue to find ways of making the best out of it. Our Sisters, the infected cases, are making good progress and, thankfully, no new cases are reported. However, the casualty seems to be on the rise among the health care supporters.

In other parts of the Congregation, the situation seems to be gaining alarming proportions. We have a glimpse into it through the following accounts that have come in; others will follow:

Ranchi (from Sr. Mary Joseph Valiyankal)

The coronavirus that has taken the world by storm has India in its grips. Having the second highest density of population in the world, social spread is one of the dangers the country is faced with. Out of the 29 states in India, some of the affected states include Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. According to eminent doctors and social analysts, it is a matter of time that this virus spreads its lethal wings to other parts of the country. The death toll so far has gone up to 200 and the confirmed cases too are rising alarmingly. The people are living in constant fear and anxiety. The timely steps, especially the lockdown, obligatory social distancing and other strict measures taken by the Centre as well as state governments have been beneficial to a certain extend in preventing the rapid social spread of the virus so far. Some of the state governments have taken commendable steps in identifying the affected in the early stage itself and setting up isolation centres, screening facilities and appropriate treatment, community kitchen, distribution of necessary materials and the like.

One good thing that is happening now is that, cutting across boundaries, people are realising the need for God and many are extending their help to the needy in spite of the lockdown and other restrictions. SCJMs of Ranchi province are actively involved in taking care of the migrant labourers during the lockdown. It is initiated by the Arch diocese of Ranchi in co-operation with the Government of Jharkhand. One of our schools in Hulhundu has been converted into a shelter home for migrant-labourers. The place is prepared to accommodate 200 people with all provisions for their stay. They will be brought only after the mandatory tests and screening done. The same set up is done in Chinaki and in Abadganj to meet any emergency situation. Besides helping the diocese to combat this crisis, we also hold sessions to make people aware of the dangers of corona and on how to keep oneself and family safe from contracting the virus. Meanwhile the communities of the Provincialate, Nirmala College and Chianki have distributed food items to around 400 needy families in their respective areas. Sisters are willing and happy to help the needy whichever way possible and as we see the signs and symptoms around today we feel that we need to prepare for worse situation in the days to come.

In the midst of all this fear, anxiety and uncertainty we turn to God, with trust and confidence in His merciful love!

IAN Philippines (from Sr. Fatima Peiris)

As of today (April 12) there are 4,648 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country. The death toll stands at 297. The entire country of more than 104 million people is under quarantine.

The country’s healthcare system is facing this added strain of the coronavirus along with tens of thousands of TB patients. The Philippines remains one of the few countries where TB cases continue to climb annually. Today, an estimated one million Filipinos have active TB infections. These now face the added threat of contracting coronavirus due to their weakened immune systems. As the hospitals are jam-packed now with COVID-19 patients, the TB patients are advised to stay at home.

Few supermarkets are open but only limited items are available. The people are going through a very hard and a difficult time: no jobs, no work and poverty.

As a community we have decided to make our life style very simple. Thank God we have some vegetables and fruits from the garden. We remain united with the whole world and spend more time with the Lord. The Holy Week retreat was a wonderful experience for all of us in the community to work for our own conversion and transformation. Each day, we are learning and experiencing many things for our life.

Pakistan (from Sr. Sophia Patras)

As many as 13 localities in the provincial capital of Lahore were partially or completely sealed on Saturday due to a sudden rise in cases of coronavirus. While Lahore remains among the worst affected areas in the province, the areas sealed are old and densely populated, a situation that could potentially lead to these sealed localities becoming virus hotbeds of mass infections.

The total number of countrywide Coronavirus cases stands at 5,015 with 86 confirmed deaths.
A majority of COVID-19 infections in Pakistan are pilgrims who returned to Pakistan from Iran earlier this month.

Pakistan’s Health Ministry has issued directives for the masses on how to protect themselves from the Coronavirus. The government has urged people to avoid public gatherings, wash hands regularly and keep a distance from the virus patients. Despite these public messages, which are being propagated through mainstream media, many people seem to ignore these instructions. Poverty is rampant in the country, with many people unable to make ends meet. They view coronavirus as the least of their problems.

To enforce ‘Social Distancing’ the army has been called in to help the police. At certain places, people breaking ‘Social distancing’ are being punished by the police. The mosques, Churches and all worship places are ordered to close for larger gathering. Only a few persons (4-5) can join the prayers on Fridays or Sundays. People are told to pray at home.

In big cities, the private hospitals are without doctors, and patients with usual sicknesses find it difficult to get treatment. The markets for eatables are open for a certain period of time. Many people of goodwill are taking care of the poor through distributing eatables to them.

Rwanda (sent by Sr. Mary Paul Vadassery)

Rwanda too has its share of painful experiences that the world is going through on account of the pandemic. The Lockdown which was introduced earlier for two weeks now will continue for another two weeks. Both civil and Ecclesial authorities regularly send us specific instructions asking us to observe them very strictly. In case of indiscipline, severe measures are taken by the authorities. In the beginning, people found it very difficult to stay in without meeting and greeting. But now it seems to have become part of their lives. We feel that Corona virus has taught people to be disciplined. The vigilance on the part of the authorities is really to be admired. Even the very uneducated, poor people get worried at the sign of simple cold and cough and run to health centres for a check-up. Ordinary check-up is done for the symptoms and many of them are sent back home after giving assurance and counselling. Only the very doubtful cases are referred to big hospitals for a complete check-up. Bottles of sanitizers are kept everywhere.

To-date, we have 118 cases but they are all mild cases, being segregated in government hospitals. Few of them have already recovered. All the hospitals do the initial check-up of everyone who enters. All private hospitals and health centres are asked to keep places ready to receive patients of Corona in case of necessity. It is quiet and calm everywhere. The big crows which used to come to eat everything we plant in our garden are nowhere to be seen now.

The poor people and the daily workers are the people who suffer the most in our country at this time with no work and no other means of income for their daily living. We do not forget them and try to share whatever we can to help them. This has taught us the spirit of sharing and caring for those in greater need.

Our sisters of Burundi, our neighbouring country where we have one community, are living in another world. So far they have five cases of corona. The frontiers and the airport are closed since two weeks and it continues to be so. For the rest, life continues as usual; there is no lockdown and people move around freely within the country. All institutions function as usual.

The holy week was a special time for us to be in closer union with the Lord with all our sisters of our Congregation. The calmness and quietness around helped us to pray better for the whole world and remember our brethren who are suffering in the various continents. We are extremely happy with our Holy Week retreat experience.

Delhi (sent by Sr. Teresa Attupuram)

As this is being written, India has recorded 16999 confirmed cases and 331 deaths due to COVID 19. The good news, however, is the recovery of 1086 positive cases. Delhi records the second highest infected cases with a total number of 1154 confirmed cases and 24 deaths. A national lockdown was announced on 24th March for 21 days and now it is reported that it could be extended up to 30th April. The government has also imposed travel bans and all the tourist sites, schools, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and other public spots are closed temporarily. The lockdown has affected mainly the migrants and the poor, especially the women, children, differently abled, the marginalized and the displaced. They have no work, no money, no food and no proper place to stay. The number of vehicles on roads has reduced drastically and so the pollution too has come down.

Many Christian and Non-Christian NGOs have come forward for distributing food packets, groceries, medicines and other essentials for people to survive. All our communities in the province are involved in identifying the needy ones and offering help to the extent it is possible in the given situation. In remote areas food items are not easily available for purchasing. Nevertheless, our Sisters are laboring hard and are trying to reach out to the victims of the pandemic with the help of shop owners, the police and government officials. Both central and state governments have also taken a lot of measures to help the poor, such as providing with make-shift houses, shelter homes and rations for all. Besides, medical professionals are being trained to manage Covid-19 cases and testing facilities are augmented by roping in both private and public medical colleges, along with 14 mental health institutes across the country.

In the Province all the Sisters, helpers and our collaborators so far are protected from COVID 19. For many of us living indoors for such an extended period of time is a new experience. Many of our communities do not have Holy Mass and we missed the Holy Week and Easter Services. However, we are finding new ways to share and celebrate faith creatively during this pandemic. There is a thirst in everyone to remain connected with the lifeline / God.

St. Bernard, Congo (sent by Sr. Angèle Benabiabo)

The Covid-19 pandemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo is documented in the country from 10 March 2020, when the first case was confirmed in the territory.

On 19 March, Felix Tshisekedi announced the closure of all schools and universities in the country.

On the evening of 24 March, President Félix Tshisekedi declared a state of emergency during a televised address, and the isolation of the capital, Kinshasa. Panic gripped the inhabitants, and supermarkets were stormed with queues several hundred metres long.

On 27 March, the governor of Kinshasa finally decided to postpone the lockdown of the capital to an undetermined date, citing a problem of soaring prices for basic necessities and a risk of insecurity.

On 2 April, he announced new lockdown measures for the capital, which would eventually affect only the commune of La Gombe, Kinshasa’s administrative and commercial centre, for two weeks from 6 April.

As of 12/04/2020, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 235, since the beginning of the epidemic declared on 10 March 2020. In total, there have been 20 deaths.

Five provinces are affected. These are Kinshasa with 223 cases. North Kivu has 5 cases. There are 4 cases in South Kivu, 2 in Ituri and 1 case in Kwilu.

Since 2018, DR Congo has been fighting the worst Ebola epidemic in its history, described as an "international health emergency" by the WHO. However, in early March 2020 (when the presence of the coronavirus is beginning to be documented in the territory), new cases of Ebola detected are becoming increasingly rare, and the official announcement of the end of the epidemic is envisaged by the authorities for 12 April. DR Congo has also been fighting a major measles epidemic for more than a year, with the WHO having identified 335,000 infected children, including 6,300 deaths, particularly in the north of the country.

To be continued…

"Lockdown"

It is a touching poem about coronavirus by Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland.

As we prayerfully enter the season of the Holy Week, united with our sisters and brothers the world over in the Spirit, this poem is a powerful invitation to see our life today from another perspective!

JPEG - 9.3 kbYes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.JPEG - 11.3 kb
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing!

Sr. Lucy Jacob
Brussels
04.04.2020


SCJM News update on Covid-19 / 29.03.2020

All of us had our wonderful plans for the months and the year ahead; but we now realise that the Lord had another one!

The coronavirus forces us to stop, to think, to reflect, to listen, to change… The silence that envelops us and the restrictions on movements and outdoor activities oblige us to remain inside – an invitation to go deep within, to turn inwards…

The SCJM family, as also our brothers and sisters, the world over today is living through the impact of lockdown, enforced by our governments and civil authorities, to control and contain the pandemic of Covid-19. Nevertheless, according to the reports coming in from our provinces and regions, the cases of Covid-19 are on the rise and everyone is required to meet this pandemic head-on:

  • The lockdown continues here in Belgium and we do everything possible to protect ourselves and others from the disease. Outing continues to be limited to get the essentials: food, medicine….
    • Of the two confirmed cases among our elderly Sisters reported earlier, one is getting better and while it is a fluctuating situation for the second one. Now, we have a third confirmed case who is also hospitalised.
    • Among the health-care supporters of our Sisters, there is an increasing number of confirmed and suspected cases. This is an alarming situation for obvious reasons.
    • As you know, during the last one week two elderly sisters here in Europe and one relatively young sister in Congo have left us for their eternal abode. I wish to add here that these deaths are unrelated to Covid-19.
    • As of today, Belgium reports a total of 10 836 Covid-19 cases and 431 deaths.
  • Our student sisters in Italy and France report that, though their surrounding situation is disturbing, their studies continue on-line and that they are as well as can be in the given situation.
  • Africa seemed relatively free from the virus but, apparently, it was only a matter of time. According to the information coming in from our sisters, the number of cases is on the rise. Restrictions issued by the governments do not seem to have the desired effect as people continue moving about, particularly in market places, which is the life-line for the majority of the people in each country. A shoot-at-sight order in Rwanda of anyone disobeying the orders of the government keep people in out of fear. Even then, there are reports of aberrations.
  • Our sisters in the Asian countries witness a rising number of cases in their respective countries and stricter measures are being introduced to curb the spread.
    • The two student-sisters from Sri Lanka at EAPI in Manila are stranded. Manila being cut off from the rest of the country and world, they have neither any means to get out nor to be brought out by anyone else. Fortunately, the Institute lets them stay on and they are well.
    • In Sri Lanka, curfew is in force and anyone violating orders can be arrested.
    • A nation-wide lockout in India seems to be creating a kind of exodus of migrant workers in the cities rushing back to their villages on foot. The labourers living on daily wages in the cities and towns, and the home-less are the worst-hit by this lockdown in the country. Given the density of the population, the authorities are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. What is worse, the country is far from being prepared to address a pandemic disease such as Covid-19.

In this prevailing situation of ‘darkness’ what is getting stronger in the Congregation is the spirit of solidarity. I feel touched by the calls and messages coming in from various parts of the Congregation inquiring about our sisters in other provinces / regions and countries. Besides, there is a concerted effort everywhere to intensify our appeal to the Lord in various forms of prayer, personal and as a community, who alone can change the course of events unleashed by the virus. Let us remain united in the Lord during these difficult times!

Let us also make use of this occasion with its inherent potentials:

  • To focus on the essentials of life
  • To use the means we have at our disposal (e.g. the smart phone) to send / forward only messages that can be proactive and up-building as signs of our solidarity and support
  • To acknowledge, value and appreciate the front-liners of this pandemic and pray for them:
    • Our health-care supporters who risk their lives to protect and save those of others
    • Our government leaders whose alertness and wisdom can steer the course of events
    • Our medical professionals, researchers & scientists whose hard work and insight can create a treatment to stop the virus
    • Our spiritual leaders whose intuition and discernment can strengthen us during this time on insecurity and uncertainty
    • Our civic leaders for inspiration, courage and strength to meet the needs of their communities
    • The employees of stores that are still open to us, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers…

May God help each one of us SCJMs to display courage, hope, generosity, and kindness to all those around us!

Sr. Lucy Jacob
Brussels
29.03.2020


SCJM News update on Covid-19 / Belgium / 22.03.2020

The coronavirus is making its mark on an increasing number of people here in Belgium. As of today, there are 3401 confirmed cases and 75 deaths in the country.

With us the SCJMs, all of us are quarantined and all group activities banned, including liturgical celebrations. Any outing is limited to essential needs. Food markets admit one at a time only and purchasing is controlled to avoid panic-buying.

Despite all possible precautions, there are two of our elderly Sisters confirmed of the infection, one of whom is hospitalised and the second one, remaining in the Home, is given out to be improving. There is also one suspected case, under treatment.

Among the health care attendants in the Homes of our elderly sisters, we have three confirmed cases and two suspected cases.

It is the hope and prayer of every one of us that we see better days sooner than later!

On a different note, Sr. Sushila and Sr. Noreen, our two INC members, who are now in the community of Melle for language study appear to have integrated themselves well and feel happy and at home there. The community too is happy to have them. During these critical times, when everyone is required to remain in her respective room, when there are both confirmed and suspected cases among the Sisters, they have opted to remain with the Sisters to help them out in whatever way possible, even though the language is a barrier. This is SCJM spirit and really laudable!

In general, it is quiet and calm everywhere: the roads are clear and markets are empty; no sound of the airplanes or speeding vehicles; the hustle and bustle of the city is gone… But the skies are blue and clear, winter is giving way to spring, and the nature is beginning to put out its annual show!

And life continues under the loving gaze of the Almighty! We remain united in prayer with and for our sisters and brothers the world over, suffering and in pain!

Sr. Lucy Jacob
Brussels
22.03.2020


The Situation of COVID – 19 in the Areas of SCJM Presence

In the light of WHO declaring COVID – 19 as a pandemic disease, a question that comes to the mind of each one of you, I presume, would be “How are our Sisters in these critical times?” My immediate answer is: so far so good! There is no report of a SCJM casualty from anywhere in the Congregation.

However, as reports of more and more confirmed cases and mortality reach us from across the globe, we have reason to be concerned about, not only for ourselves but also for our sisters and brothers everywhere. Including Italy and France, where we have student Sisters, we are spread out over seventeen countries and the situation appears grave in some of these countries.

Italy, where we have two students (Sr. Nathalie Mayang Ntambw of St. Bernard, Congo and Sr. Lilly Pallipurath of the province of Ranchi, India), is declared a “red zone” – meaning people should stay home except for work and other emergencies. Both our Sisters report that they are well inside their homes and their studies continue on-line.

Sr. Beatrice Tshilemba of the province of St. Vincent, Congo is in France where all gatherings are banned and schools are closed among several other measures taken to avoid spreading the disease. However, she reports that her classes continue on schedule.

The elderly being the most vulnerable, in England and Ireland, besides other restrictions, everyone is advised against visiting the Homes of the elderly sisters. In both the countries, many restrictions are in place.

Here in Belgium, the National Security Council has declared a state of emergency over the entire country. Consequently, all recreational and sporting events are cancelled or postponed. Public places like restaurants, bars, and cafés are shut; schools remain closed… The Conference of Bishops has decided to suspend all liturgical celebrations, gatherings and meetings.

Consequently, practically all of us are ‘quarantined’. Both for the Generalate and Belgium provinces, celebrations, meetings and similar other gatherings are cancelled or postponed; those scheduled for the coming weeks/months are to be reconsidered. Over-seas mission trips of the General Government are to be rescheduled…

All the Asian countries of SCJM presence report cases of infection. Vietnam is stepping up measures to stop the virus from entering the country and spreading within the country. Our Sisters are quarantined within their respective communities, as reported earlier. Scheduled events in the Region may have to be postponed.

As of now, the situation seems mild in the Philippines, though the number of infected cases is rising. People are advised to stay home. Our IAN community, just out of the volcano-crisis - will they have to brace up for another crisis?

India reports a rising number of infected / suspected cases. The Union Government has declared COVID – 19 as a ‘notified disaster’. Our Sisters are on the alert and adopting precautionary measures to ward off the disaster.

Pakistan has confirmed cases of the pandemic and, according to WHO, is faced with a great challenge of containing it. Borders are sealed and public events are cancelled. Obviously, a serious concern for our Sisters.

As new COVID-19 positive cases are being reported in Sri Lanka, the province remains alert to meet up the eventuality. The government has imposed a ban on public gatherings and issued restrictions on travelling; educational institutions are closed.

Congo, which has already been facing an Ebola epidemic for more than a year, is preparing to face the pandemic of COVID - 19. The risk is great and the government has already initiated certain measures to arrest its entry and spread. Our Sisters in both the provinces are genuinely concerned.

The number of infected cases is given out to be on the rise in South Africa, a situation inviting our Sisters to be cautious.

According to the available information, while Rwanda reports one confirmed case today, Burundi, Mali & Central Africa have no reported cases. May our Sisters enjoy this relative sense of relief and security!

In summary, as of today, 15.03.2020, we have the following picture!

Country Total Cases Total Deaths
World Wide
151363
5758
Belgium
689
4
Netherlands
959
12
Ireland
129
2
United Kingdom
1140
21
India
90
2
Pakistan
30
0
Philippines
111
6
Sri Lanka
11
0
Vietnam
53
0
South Africa
24
0
Congo
2
0
Rwanda
1
0
Burundi
0
0
Mali
0
0
Central Africa
0
0
Italy
17,750
1441
France
4499
91

ECDC report update / 15.03.2020
(European Center for Disease prevention and Control)

No doubt, it is a situation that calls for a concerted effort to bring this pandemic under control. In the words of the Director General of WHO: “This is not just a public health crisis; it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight … we’re in this together (and together) this virus can be suppressed and controlled,” he asserts.

Let us, during this time of lent, do everything in our power for the amelioration of this pandemic disease. In particular let us pray, personally and in community; let us pray for the sick, for the care-takers of the sick and for all those involved in controlling the situation and finding a remedy. May the Spirit of wisdom enlighten and guide all those who are to take decisions in response to this outbreak!

Sr. Lucy Jacob Palliam Pallithura
Brussels
15.03.2020


Echo from the Generalate - 11/03/2020

- On 27th February, the community welcomed members of a commission who were to have a meeting at the Generalate with the objective of finding ways and means of fostering unity and communion within the European provinces and region. As
participants of this commission (named Unity Commission), there were two members from each of the three units. Co-ordinated by Sr. Roshni Barla, this was their fourth meeting from its inception in November 2018.

- A stage performance of the Passion of Jesus was organised by a group of health workers and patients of Beau Vallon, Saint-Servais on 01 March. Some members of the community went to see this play. It was a very creative and meaningful performance, staged in the auditorium of the hospital which was packed to its capacity.

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- While we wait for the arrival of the two members of the International Community from Africa, the two others who are already here are now busy learning Flemish. The Community of Melle has happily welcomed them and Sr. Martine Krichel is spending some valuable time to initiate them into a new language. Inserted into a Flemish speaking community, they are having a wonderful chance to pick up the language. Both the teacher and the students seem to be very serious and hard-working while the Sisters of the community accompany them lovingly and warmly.

- On 7th March, the community had the joy of welcoming some of the Ursulines of Tildonk: the Superior General, Sr. Bimla Minj, and community. They spent a few hours with us and their presence was a source of much life and joy. A meal together and a walk in the gardens added much vigour to the visit.


Echo from the Generalate - 24/02/2020

- News from Vietnam: Sr Suman Anima, Regional Superior of the Region of Vietnam gave some information on the situation in the country. The population lives in fear of the coronavirus. Schools are closed, churches are almost empty during Eucharistic celebrations. Our Sisters do not go to work, they stay at home to read, do some gardening or tailoring...
We entrust to the Lord this great scourge caused by the new coronavirus and all its victims.

- The Generalate Community had the joy of welcoming Sr. Kim-Chi Duong’s mother on 15/02/2020. She came from France to visit her daughter and spend some time with the Community. During her stay, she visited the Grand Place in Brussels. The Community spent a good weekend with her before her return on Monday 17/02/2020. We thank her for her short stay with us as a kind, gentle and attentive mother. We wish her a safe return to France.

Sisters Sushila and Noreen


- Delegated by the Superior General, Sr. Deepthika Silva, General Assistant, left for the Philippines on 20/02/2020 to visit the novices at the Inter-Asian Novitiate. She will come back on 26/02/2020. We wish her a good mission with the youth which is the future of our Congregation.

- Arrival of two members of the International Community at the Generalate:
Sr. Noreen Fazal from Pakistan arrived first on 21/02/2020, followed by Sr. Sushila Toppo from Ranchi on 23/02/2020. They were warmly welcomed by the Generalate community who is happy to spend some time with them while waiting for the arrival of the other members. We give thanks to the Lord for the realisation of the dream of the existence of an International Community in Belgium. We welcome them and wish them success in their mission.


Echo - 10/02/2020

- Sr. Shama Nasreen Chan was given farewell from Generalate community on 1st February. A meaningful prayer service and Holy Mass were offered to express our gratitude for her selfless service. She left for Pakistan on 6th February. Our good wishes and prayers are for her future ministry in Province of Pakistan.

Sr. Shama lighting a candle in thanksgiving

- On 5th February, Fr. Michel Christiaens, the parish priest of St. Gilles, had arranged a get together for all the religious priests and sisters in the parish, including:

  • The servants of Our Lady of Fatima
  • The Carmelites
  • The Missionaries of Charity
  • The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary
  • The Daughters of Mary
  • The Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters
  • The Consecrated Sisters of the Community of the Word of Life
  • The Community of Most Holy Providence (priests and sisters)
  • The Secular Institute of St. John the Baptist
  • The Spiritans
  • The Xaverian missionaries of Yarumal
  • The Scheutist missionaries (Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  • And a consecrated virgin.

About 45 were present for the occasion. It includes religious sisters, priests and lay people who help in the parish or in the mission. There was Holy Eucharist followed by festive meal. It was a very intercultural gathering as we are from different countries. All the participants were happy to meet and to know one another.

Celebration of World Day For Consecrated Life in St Gilles parish

- Sr. Lilly Pallipurathu from Ranchi Province is in Rome, following a program for formators which is arranged by UISG. The course began on 3rd February and will finish by June, 2020. We wish her a very fruitful stay in Rome.

- In Kimpese, Congo novice Sophie-Vianney Kaj made her first profession on 2nd February, 2020. Congratulations dear Sophie and best wishes for the years ahead in religious life!

Sr. Sophie-Vianney Kaj

Back to IAN

On Wednesday 22/01/2020, Sisters Fatima Peiris, Sushma Tirkey and the novices returned to IAN from Manila and found their house and garden covered with ashes from the volcanic eruption.

Immediately, they started to clean up the house and called some workers to remove the ashes from the roof. Though four men worked for the whole day, they did not throw away the ashes collected on one side of the roof. Sunday night, there was a heavy rain. The gutters were blocked due to the ashes, causing the mud and water from the roof to fall inside the house. The laundry, novices’ toilets and bedrooms were dirty with the mud. The laundry roof has come down a little.

There is a lot of damage that needs to be attended to immediately. Sr Fatima is trying to contact the contractor who built the house to get the roof and house repaired and painted.

Please continue to support our Sisters and novices by your prayers. Thank you!


News from Inter Asian Noviciate

Taal volcano, a volcano in the Philippines, has begun spewing lava, triggering earthquakes and emitting huge plumes of ash that have spread across the island of Luzon and beyond.

Ash began falling on Sunday, with 8,000 people being evacuated from the area near the Taal volcano which is located on an island south of the capital city Manila.
Scientists think a bigger eruption could happen soon.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology has warned that 450,000 who live near by are in danger if the volcano erupts as predicted.

Our Inter Asian Noviciate is about 15 km from the Taal volcano. Our Sisters and novices have evacuated this Wednesday 15/01/2020 afternoon to Manila. They will stay with the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Casters (CIC) there until the situation is better.

We kindly request your prayers for our Sisters and the people affected by the eruption of this volcano.

IAN garden covered with ashes from the volcano:

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News Update

An update on the situation of COVID-19 in the areas of SCJM Presence

June 24th celebration in Muanda - D. R. Congo


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