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Echoes from the Generalate during the Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sr. Valsam Jose

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.

JPEG - 97.3 kb
- 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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Final Profession 2019

Ranchi Province

Hearty Congratulations and best wishes to all our dear sisters Prabha Horo, Sarojini Minj, Roshni Kerketta, Asunta Kujur, Shila Indwar and Martina Soren of Ranchi Province, and Srs. Rubita Narzary, Alice Chauhan and Susari Herenj of Delhi Province, who pronounced their final vows on 14th December at Nirmala College, in the presence of Sr. Mary Joseph, the Provincial of Ranchi, and Sr. Teresa Attupuram, the Provincial of Delhi. It was a day of great joy for all of us as we witnessed our sisters committing themselves to God for life in our Congregation.

JPEG - 8.9 MbMass began at 9.30 a.m. with a beautiful entrance dance by the hostel girls, followed by the nine Sisters walking in procession, slowly and solemnly, each holding in her hand a lamp which they placed on the altar. The welcome address was given by Sr. Albina Mundu, the Tertian Mistress. The Holy Eucharist was officiated by His Grace Rt. Rev. Felix Toppo SJ, Archbishop of Ranchi, along with many other priests. His sermon was very inspiring and thought provoking as he spoke about religious vocation and total commitment to God. He highlighted the importance of making Jesus the center of our lives and invited each Sister to do so.

The melodious singing of Sr.Sushma Ekka and other sisters, along with the hostel girls, prepared for the event - added meaning to the Eucharistic celebration. Many family members and relatives of the tertians, many of our sisters, other religious, and our hostel students were present there to witness this great event. Srs. Teresa Thuan, Maria Loan and Maria Hanh, the three sisters from Vietnam who did the tertianship with them in Ranchi, remained to share their joy. After Holy Communion, Sr. Roshni Kerketta - one of the Finally Professed Sisters -proposed the vote of thanks.

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All appreciated the hospitality of Sr. Lidwin and community and enjoyed the lunch lovingly prepared by them. Indeed it was their generosity and willingness to put up yet with another big function in between the Golden Jubilee celebration and the Province Assembly. All the sisters really worked hard to make this day a beautiful and a memorable one. The community is praiseworthy for its team spirit and hard work.

All the finally professed, filled with the Spirit of God are moving out to their new mission. We thank God for the gift of these nine Sisters to the Church and to our Congregation. We wish and pray that they live to the full, and remain faithful to the Lord and to the Congregation.

 

MAY - JULY 2019: FROM JOY TO JOY IN NDERA, VICE-PROVINCE OF RWANDA

28 May - The long-awaited arrival of Sr. Erna

JPEG - 2.5 Mb In the afternoon of May 28, 2019, at Kigali airport, we welcomed Sr. Erna De Wulf, after several months of waiting for her coming to help us in our developing "Mère Placide School Complex". This school was founded in January 2017 by Sr. Mary-Paul Vadassery, Director, in collaboration with Sr. Charitine Impuhwe, Prefect of Discipline and Sr. Thérèse Mukandoli who joined them in the 2nd trimester as Secretary Accountant. As Sr. Mary-Paul was appointed Vice-Provincial, it was no longer possible for her to continue as a school principal. She therefore asked Sr. Erna to come and replace her in this position. Sr. Erna first spent 2 weeks at the Vice-Provincialate in Nyamata to get more details about her new mission and to apply for a visa and identity card in Rwanda. In the meantime, she also made a return trip to Butare where she met the seamstress who made habits for her to wear in Rwanda.
JPEG - 2.1 MbOn the evening of Sunday, June 16, she arrived in habit in Ndera where her community welcomed her with great joy. In each community, there were happy reunions with the Sisters who had known her for a long time and joyful encounters with the younger Sisters and aspirants.

On Friday, July 21, Sr. Erna received a warm welcome at the school by teachers and students in sports uniforms. Sr. Mary-Paul introduced Sr. Erna as the new headmistress of the school, with Sr. Marie-Claire Uwamahoro as the new prefect of studies and discipline. This welcome continued on Monday, July 24, this time with the students in their daily uniforms.

23 June - The sending of 5 aspirants to Butare for their entry to postulancy

JPEG - 86.3 kbThe aspirants and Sisters were very happy about this event which brought hope to the Vice-Province.

27 June - The welcome of our young Sisters who have come back from Mali

JPEG - 188.6 kbThree postulants from Rwanda have just finished their novitiate in Mali where they celebrated their first profession on June 23rd. Full of joy and confidence in the future, they came back to the Vice-Province on June 27. Sr. Enatha went directly to see her parents, both are very sick with cancer. Srs. Beatrice and Pascaline stayed in Nyamata, at the Vice-Provincialate, waiting for another great celebration: the perpetual vows of two Sisters and a silver jubilee.

June 28 - Feast of the Sacred Heart

JPEG - 3 MbThe whole community has organized itself for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. After that, a festive meal and a joyful recreation crowned the greatest celebration of our Congregation. Praise the Lord!

July 5 - The greatest joy in Ndera! The perpetual vows of Sisters Marie-Claire Uwamahoro and Gaudiose Icyimpaye and the jubilee of 25 years of religious life of Sr. Marie Mukayambire

JPEG - 885.4 kbThe whole community of Ndera was mobilized to prepare this great celebration. Two days before the feast, the Sisters from the most distant communities began to arrive. Among them was Sr. Marie Mukayambire, the jubilarian who is in the community of Bujumbura - Burundi. The Sisters of Nyamata and Butare arrived on the morning of July 5. It was the joy of the reunion!

On the same day we had a very beautiful morning liturgy and the festive Eucharist at 10:30 a.m., presided by our Bishop, and concelebrated by 27 priests. Several family members, religious men and women and a large number of parishioners came to celebrate this double event with us. After a Eucharist of almost 4 hours, the guests headed to our “Mère Placide School Complex" where everything was prepared for the festive meal. The new postulants performed a traditional dance that was appreciated by all. During the meal, congratulations were extended to the Jubilarian and the 2 new perpetually professed Sisters. Bishop blessed us all before he left. Around 5 pm, we separated in thanksgiving and joy.

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July 6 - First communion in the school

JPEG - 5.2 MbAfter the Sisters’ celebration, July 6 was the children’s celebration. Nine students, well prepared by our Sisters Therese and Charitine, were ready to receive their first communion. They were there very early with their families. At 10:00 am, the Eucharist was celebrated by the parish priest in the schoolyard. Over the past few months, a good number of 4th and 5th grade students have rehearsed the songs with Sr. Charitine to sing during this festive mass. And for a family the joy was double because during this ceremony the little brother of one of these children was baptized. Glory be to God! After a small snack offered to all, everyone continued the celebration with the family.

July 20 - Installation of the new superior of Ndera

After the departure of Sr. Mary-Paul, Superior of Ndera, appointed as Vice-Provincial, a long waiting period was crowned by the announcement of the name of the new Superior: Sr. Thérèse Mukandoli. Another great joy!

JPEG - 1.1 MbOn Saturday, July 20, Sr. Mary-Paul came to the community, and in a beautiful evening liturgy prepared by our Sr. Colette, Sr. Thérèse Mukandoli was installed as local Superior for a period of 3 years. The joy continued during the festive meal and recreation. Just before the meal, Sr. Mary-Paul further increased the joy of the Sisters by announcing the names of Sr. Thérèse’s councillors: Sr. Erna De Wulf and Sr. Colette Uwamahoro.

This is how we have lived here in Rwanda from joy to joy in recent months. May the Lord be praised!

Sr. Erna De Wulf

CELEBRATIONS IN KIMPESE AND LUBUMBASHI

FIRST PROFESSION OF 9 NOVICES IN KIMPESE

Having completed their canonical year, the 2nd year novices were assigned to SCJM communities for three months for community experience, and also to experience the charism of the Congregation expressed through our works of charity and other ministries.
On December 6th, 2018 they returned to the formation house to complete their initial formation program.

In June, Sr. Adolphine Lukadi, the novice mistress guided them in a Charism retreat for 10 days.

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From left to right :
Front : Sr Rosette Milolo, Sr Christine Lukadi, Sr Emérence Bikuba, Sr Adolphine Lukadi (novice mistress), Sr Bertine Nyamabu, Sr Marie Claire Tshituka, Sr Blandine Malungisa
Back : Sr Marie Tshituka, Sr Rosalie Dibele, Sr Huguette Lakuwa

On June 19th, Sister Angele Benabiabo, the Provincial Superior, met with the second novices individually.
June 23rd, many sisters went to Kimpese.
June 24th, 2019, during lauds following a hymn to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in the presence of the Provincial Superior Sister Angele Benabiabo, 13 junior sisters renewed their vows,
The Eucharistic Celebration of the day began at 9:30 am, and was presided over by reverend Giraud Mpindi Mwanza, Vicar General of the Diocese of Matadi, accompanied by twenty priests. The parish youth choir directed by two junior SCJM’s added to this celebration to make it a faith filled and joyous occasion.

A clothing ceremony of 6 postulants was celebrated to mark their acceptance into the novitiate.
After the Gospel acclamation 9 senior novices were called forward and to the rhythm of a hymn they moved to occupy the places that were reserved for them. After the homily they pronounced their first vows as a sign of their commitment to the Lord through the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary way of life. Following the Eucharistic celebration, a special meal was served to the guests and everyone enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere.

In the evening, after adoration and vespers, supper was served in the Father Joseph Triest Square (see the large community) to the SCJMs, the families of the new Novices and the newly professed of the day and their guests who were to travel the next day.

CELEBRATION OF PERPETUAL AND TEMPORARY VOWS IN LUBUMBASHI

Arrival of the novices

On June 17, 2019, we left Kimpese at 5:00 am to travel to Kinshasa where we arrived at 10:00 am. On our arrival were warmly welcomed by all the sisters of the community of O.L. of Grace in Gombe, and we shared a refreshing drink, at 3:00 pm we went to the agency to have our luggage weighed in preparation for our flight. We returned to the community around 6:00 pm, where we continued the celebration with Sr. Angela BENABIABO, the Provincial Superior.
The next morning, a solemn service was held for us by the Sisters. Afterwards we went to visit the Brothers of Charity and their Provincial Superior congratulated us and encouraged us.

At 10:00 am, we left for Ndjili International Airport to board the plane that was scheduled to take off at 3:00 pm for Lubumbashi.
We arrived at Luano airport at 7:10 pm; Sisters Victorine NTENGU and Gisèle KANAILA were waiting for us. They were delighted to see us after many years, and we were taken to the Provincial House. Where we were graciously welcomed and received with joy amid singing and dancing we processsed to the Chapel. Sr Marie-Céline BULUNGU, the Provincial Superior of Saint Vincent Province, led the prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Following the prayer, we were invited to the living room for some refreshments. Then we went to the community of Our Lady of Hope and on our arrived there at 9:30 pm. we once again received a warm welcome from the older sisters.
The final stop was at the Juniorate House where we would stay for 11days Sisters Beatrice, Gaudiose and Marie-Claire welcomed us very warmly.

During our stay there we worked and prayed until the long anticipated day of profession dawned.
Two days prior to our profession we had two day of, non-guided recollection during which we had a celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Profession celebration

On June 29, 2019, the very day of the profession, we led Morning Prayer (lauds) ourselves. After lunch, we prepared for the Eucharistic Celebration at the Parish of Our Lady of Peace, in Gecamines city.

Mass started at 10:00 am approx. The AMANI choir started the entrance hymn, the whole assembly sang joyfully while Monsignor Gédéon KAFUKU, the Vicar General and main celebrant of the day, accompanied by twelve priests, acolytes, and those of us who were about to make our profession as SCJMs, moved in procession towards the altar of the Lord.

Then came the moment when the Provincial Superior called each novice by name and each one answered: "Here I am".
The sisters to be professed moved to the altar while singing and each one made her commitment to remain faithful to God and to his Son Jesus Christ.

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The newly professed
From left to right : Sr. Cornelie KALUNGA, Sr. Solange-Clarisse MUEJA, Sr. Nelly KASHIKA, Sr. Suzanne KAD and Sr. Marie-Jeanne APENDEKI

During the homily, the Vicar General emphasised the importance of being faithful to the evangelical counsels and especially to the vow of obedience.
Following the ceremony of first profession, the ceremony of perpetual vows began. After a short meeting with the Vicar General, the two sisters who were about to make perpetual profession went to their parents to ask for their blessing. Once this was done, the two sisters returned to the altar where the Vicar General and the Mother Provincial awaited them for the continuation of the ceremony.

The perpetual and newly professed sisters were congratulated and welcomed into the Triest family. The Mass continued and one of the Sisters of the Province gave a vote of thanks before the final blessing, the Eucharist ended at 2:00 pm.
A celebration was held in the P.J. Triest room of the Tshondo High School in thanksgiving for the commitment and generosity of the perpetual and newly professed SCJMs. Alleluia! Alleluia!


Entry into the novitiate and first profession - Mali

This year, in June, two significant events took place in the Inter-African Novitiate, i.e. five young postulants, (two from Rwanda and three from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC), entered the novitiate and seven young novices, (three from Rwanda and four from the DRC), made their first vows.

ENTRY INTO THE NOVITIATE

We, the first year novices, are very happy to share with you something about our entry into the inter-African novitiate in Mali.
We started with an 8-day retreat from 4 to 13 June 2019, on the theme “God’s call”. The retreat was guided by Father Gregoire Keita. He said that it is God who calls whomever he wants and when he wants. He has called us and invited us to joyfully follow His path. Our vocation is an experience of love, that is, loving God, spreading his love wherever the poor call us, and being loved.”

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From left to right : Julienne Tumone, Cécile Karamuka, Régine Ndaya, Francine Mukanyandwi, Marie Inès Mujinga

On the 7th day of the retreat, we had a night vigil, conducted by the senior novices, from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. On 8th the last day of our retreat, we prayed the lauds at 6:30 am. After the prayer we were led to the refectory with singing and dancing where a delicious breakfast was awaiting us.

The long awaited hour had come, so, we proceeded to the chapel to encounter the Lord during the ceremony, which began at 10:00 am in our novitiate chapel. Father Emmanuel Dembele, Vicar General and parish priest of San, presided over the Eucharistic celebration, accompanied by 6 other priests who concelebrated the Eucharist. All the religious communities in the city of San were invited to the celebration.

In his homily the parish priest drew our attention to the clothing ceremony by saying: “As we have put on a new dress, in the same way, we should change our hearts and habits in order to start a new life. We should let ourselves be formed.”
After the Mass the fraternal meal was served in our refectory. After that, we enjoyed watching a Malian dance. We were happy to begin our novitiate formation with such a meaningful celebration.

In the afternoon, at 3 pm, we took a little rest and by 5 pm, we went to distribute the rest of the food to the prisoners.
After vespers and supper, the celebration continued until 10:00 pm. At the end of the day, we thanked all the Sisters for their prayer, accompaniment and support.

Mali, 13/06/2019
The canonical novices

FIRST PROFESSION

On 23 June 2019, on the solemnity of the Blessed Sacrament, we had the joy of celebrating our first profession. We were seven: Pascaline Mukandambaje, Espérance Musua, Thérèse Ngalula, Béatrice Byukusenge, Monique Muisangie, Enatha Dusenge and Léocadie Twangizila to make the first profession.

Mass began at 9:00 am in front of the square of Notre Dame de Lourdes Cathedral of San, with the procession of all the Sisters of the Region of Mali. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Fr. Donat Dakouo, delegate of the bishop, Monsignor Jean-Gabriel Diarra who was unable to attend, and concelebrated by six priests.

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From left to right : Sr. Béatrice Byukusenge, Sr. Leocadie Twangizila, Sr. Espérance Muzwa, Sr. Pascaline Mukandayambaje, Sr. Monique Muisangie, Sr. Enatha Dusenge, Sr. Thérèse Ngalula

In his homily, the celebrant emphasized: “The solemnity of the Blessed Sacrament remains for you an unforgettable day throughout your life.” He invited us to be "Eucharist", that is, by the gift of ourselves to God, to clothe ourselves with humility and simplicity, following the example of Jesus Christ. After the homily, the ceremony of the profession began with a dialogue between Sister Cécile Ndaya, delegate of the Superior General, and the to be (newly) professed sisters, followed by the pronouncing of vows, handing over of the crosses and the constitutions of the Congregation.

It was a beautiful celebration. At the moment of entrusting us with our future mission, we sang the song of our consent and each one accepted graciously the new mission. Two of us, Sr. Thérèse Ngalula and Sr. Léocadie Twangizila, have been assigned to Mali. It was a joy for all those present.
We were anxious, at the same time full of joy. We are convinced that everything is grace and what is essential is to live for Jesus and to accomplish His mission with love and joy.

All the parishioners were invited to the novitiate for the fraternal meal. After the agape there was a time for everyone to exhibit their talents through dance and music. It was great! We thank God for the wonders He has already accomplished in our lives and we continue to rely on His grace to leads us on in the future in our new mission.

Mali, 23/06/2019
The newly professed

CELEBRATION OF THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR PRESENCE IN MIKALAYI

Before the D-Day, a conference cum debate was conducted by Brother François-Xavier, a brother of Saint Joseph of Mikalayi, followed by a time of entertainment with a football match between the teachers of our schools and the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. The match ended on a score of one goal to nil in favour of the teachers.
Celebration of a jubilee is surely a time of grace and thanksgiving! We are therefore invited to contemplate on the wonders that God has accomplished through His handmaids, in the not so young mission of Mikalayi, St Joseph. We raise our hearts to you Lord in thanksgiving for the innumerable blessings which we have received without any merit of ours.

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The history of Mikalayi tells us that five missionaries, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, under the guidance of a White Father, Rev. Fr. De Deken, one of the two founders of this mission, left Bas-Congo in September 1893 to head for Luluabourg Saint Joseph, in Haut-Kasaï.

The caravan started their journey from Nemlao, a village near Muanda / Bas Congo, on September 2, 1893, and they arrived at the Mikalayi mission on January 20, 1894 after a long, tedious and painful journey of four months. It was indeed a journey in faith like our forefather Abraham, leaving behind the familiar and known and launching out into the unknown, relying only on the providence of God. It takes courage to answer such a call and risk one’s life for the Lord.

As soon as the Sisters arrived at the mission station, they found a group of hundred girls to teach and instruct and many sick to take care of. That alone summarizes all the activities of the Sisters in that place since then.

Over the years, new apostolates were added to the existing ones: the Lazaret, a place for the incurables and the elderly was founded in 1895; arrangements were made to place orphaned boys and girls in Christian families (1896) and started a dispensary; in 1923 a tailoring school (a sewing school) was built, etc. Education of the girls and the empowerment of women remained at the heart of the Sisters’ mission.

In Mikalayi, the first Girl’s School was begun by Sister Donat Olivier. This is the ancestor of the current Tusadile High School. The SCJMs thus became the promoters of girls’ education in Kasai. The reputation of our Mikalayi Girls’ Teacher Training School had reached all over Kasai. The boarding students were well supervised by the Sisters, who invited them to attend the prayers of the community.

On the medical side, not only had attention been paid to the care of patients at the clinic and hospital, but also to train qualified and competent medical personnel. Thus the nurses’ school (now I.T.M.) has been in operation since 1953. Today, as it was a hundred and twenty-five years ago, Mikalayi still remains the focal point of all the activities, with its important medical training: dispensary-maternity- psychiatric hospital, its health and nutritional centre.

In terms of works of mercy, the Sisters still keep all the works specific to the spirit of the founding charism: welcoming and caring for widows; organized orphanage and education of the youth.

JPEG - 104.3 kb A whole book will not suffice to narrate the story of Mikalayi’ and it can evoke the memory of all those people: Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Catechists, faithful believers, etc. who have dedicated all their energies and lives to the work of evangelization of the region, each one according to the unique gift received from the Spirit.

The Archbishop was unable to attend the jubilee celebrations so he delegated the Dean of the Parish of St Joseph, Mikalayi, to preside over the Eucharist. During his homily, the latter praised God for so many wonders accomplished through our pioneering Sisters; he also exalted and praised the work done by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary to this day in Mikalayi. He said that it was due to their presence and efforts religious life is flourishing in Kasai today.

After the communion, the Provincial Superior recalled the 125-years of the history of the presence of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary in Mikalayi, the cradle of evangelization and religious life in Kasai.

JPEG - 144.8 kb Sister Angelique Dikete, one of the General Assistants, delegated by the Superior General who was unable to be present personally, gave glory to God for so many blessings. She thanked the Sisters for their missionary commitment and the assembly for their presence and support. Finally the Sisters and guests shared a meal in fraternity. Everyone was overjoyed with the experiences of the day.
We were fortunate to have the presence of the Provincial Superior of the Province of Saint Vincent de Paul and a large delegation of our Sisters from Mbuji-Mayi.
We thank the Lord for all His blessings and graces. We entrust ourselves to His Divine Providence.
May He continue to lead and guide us in our endeavours in furthering His Kingdom in this part of the world.

Sister Angèle BENABIABO


Big celebration at the Mother House in Ghent

On the first of June 2019, 50 Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary celebrated the jubilee of their first professions;
We were blessed as 3 jubilarians celebrated 75 years;
4 Celebrated 70 years;
23 Celebrated 60 years;
20 Celebrated 50 years including Sr. Lucy Jacob, our Superior General.

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Unfortunately, not all of the European jubilarians could be present in Ghent;
The African and Asian jubilarians were united with their European sisters in heart and spirit. And all were remembered in the prayers of intercession.
Mgr. Van Looy, the Bishop of Ghent, was the chief celebrant and our Eucharistic celebration was graced by the beautiful music and singing of the polyphonic choir.
This was followed by cheerful meeting and greetings and stories of lived experiences;
a delicious meal was prepared and served by our lovely and gracious collaborators.

The years of commitment are accumulating, and so too is our enthusiasm and gratitude for everything the Lord has and is accomplishing here and around the world.

It was a joyful celebration of thanksgiving and jubilation.

Photos of the jubilee


NEW ENTRY TO THE IAN – 2019

On the eve of our New Entry into IAN (Inter Asian Noviciate), we started our day of prayer with the Lord, which had a meaningful and challenging theme entitled “You are not an Accident”.

We had a special opportunity to take time to reflect and to spend the day with the Lord by deepening our appreciation of our own lives and the gift of our vocations. It was said that my birth was no mistake, my parents may not have planned me but God did. He was not at all surprised by my birth. In fact, He expected it.

Long before I was conceived by my parents, I was conceived in the mind of God. He thought of me first. He planned the days of my life in advance, choosing the exact time of my birth and death. The Holy Scripture says, “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book”. God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates.

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This was a wonderful opportunity to appreciate and to cherish the gift of our vocations and the wonder of our beings. We felt God’s goodness to each one of us. With this inspiring reflection we were so happy and our desire was deepened to give ourselves to the Lord. We found more meaning in our lives and the joy of giving ourselves to the Lord. We spent the day in prayer and experienced deep silence everywhere. We were completely in union with God with the guidance of Sr. Fatima our novice mistress.

The theme was so relevant for our entry into the Novitiate. Sr. Fatima enlightened us with her inspiring reflection together with some Scripture passages which enabled us to deepen our appreciation that everything that happens in our lives is according to the great purpose and plan of God for each one of us and every event is planned by God. “Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb, He pronounced my name before I was born” (Is: 49/1).

The words of the Psalmist and the reflection given by Sister Fatima deepened our conviction of our call as SCJMs. We were inspired to allow God to continue transforming us into his image and to be open to him and to allow him to pour himself on us.

Our chapel was beautifully decorated with a display of the words “ I have called you by name, you are mine ”. We had a very meaningful liturgy, conducted by Sr. Fatima and Sr. Jamila. During the prayer service we were given the uniform and came dressed up with the new uniform. Each of us received the Holy Bible, the Constitution and the Cross. Then we offered a symbol of ourselves with a meaningful prayer.

At the end of the prayer service, we were led to the dining room, accompanied by our two professed sisters and our two senior novices. They congratulated us and expressed their best wishes for a happy and a bright future. Finally we had grand dinner and recreation. This was an unforgettable day in our lives here in IAN.

Our group consists of seven, from different countries:
Two from Rwanda
Two from Vietnam
Two from Delhi
One from Pakistan

Janviere, Trâm, Thành, Roma, Esther, Tamanna and Jobita entered the novitiate on May 5th 2019.

Thank you and may God bless you.
( First year novices.)

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From left to right: Jobita, Thành, Roma, Tamanna, Sr. Fatima, Janviere, Trâm, Esther


Ranchi Province: First Profession - 18th May, 2019

Ranchi Province joyfully celebrated the first profession of eight senior novices: They were, Kerketta Renu, Gloria Baa, Cicilia Chutia Purty, Abha Tirkey, Neelanchal Reshma Beck, Manjula Toppo, Binita Kujur, and Julia Mundu.

The ceremony was held at the Sacred Heart school hall in Hulhundu. It started with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 9.00 am; the main celebrant was His Grace Telesphore Bilung, the auxiliary bishop of Ranchi Arch diocese. Nine priests concelebrated the Holy Mass with the Bishop. The homily delivered by His Grace was very meaningful and inspiring as it was very much related to the theme and to the readings of the day.

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The novices pronounced their vows with confidence and zeal, in the presence of Sr. Mary Joseph and the large congregation present in the hall. The ceremony was moving in its prayerful dignity and sense of joy, enhanced by the choir of sisters, novices and postulants led by Srs. Sushma Ekka and Josephine Xaxa. The presence of parents, relatives, friends and SCJMs from nearby communities as well as several priests and religious of other Congregations also added to the joy of all and in particular to that of the newly professed Sisters. Following the Eucharistic celebration, the new brides of Christ were congratulated and felicitated by SCJMs, friends and family members. The celebrations which followed were simple but enormously joyful. There followed a fellowship meal which was enjoyed by all. Indeed the day was very special, not only for the newly professed, but for the whole Congregation and for the entire Church.

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From left to right - Front: Sr. Reshma Beck, Sr. Nilima Kerketta, Sr. Binita Kujur, Sr. Manjula Toppo
From left to right - Back: Sr. Abha Tirkey, Sr. Julia Mundu, Sr. Cicilia Chutia Purty, Sr. Renu Gloria Baa


Jubilees celebration in Belgian South Province

For many reasons, the Beau-Vallon offers an ideal festive setting. So, for years, the jubilees of the Sisters of the South Province have been celebrated here. On May 11, we celebrated the jubilees in honour of Sr. Teresa of the Trinity, Sr. Maria-Felix and Sr. Benitia.

JPEG - 124.6 kb Thanks to two members of the pastoral team - Daniel, the organist, and Martine, the cantor - we entered the Eucharistic celebration as if in a branch of the Celestial Palace. One could not help but listen to the words of Father Jean Radermakers sj.’s homily and take one or two pearls from it. I remember, for example, this beautiful image: of each of us growing in the silence of our mother’s womb for nine months, so as to become, the synthesis of humanity’s long secular growth.
After the consecration, our inter-culturality was expressed, this was thanks to the rite of adoration accomplished by our Sisters from Asia and by the farandole initiated by our African Sisters, at the end of the Eucharist, to lead the assembly to the place where the aperitif was being served.

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After the delicious dinner worthy of the local Chief-chef, we took a moment to relax. But I can assure you that no one fell asleep! This was for a good reason... All those who were invited agreed to take an active part in a "tour of the Provinces", which engaged the healthy curiosity of each one. This was followed by joyful music played by an accordionist and his son.
Kim-Chi kicks off: she sings a Vietnamese song with a warm voice that captivated us.
Then it was the turn of Sr. Deepthika to explain one of the ways to welcome guests to their homes in Sri Lanka: they are presented with small portions of rice cooked in coconut milk and topped with dried fruit. She put her words into action, as she offers us the opportunity to discover its flavour before leaving Beau-Vallon. Del-icious!
Sr. Roshni gave us the opportunity to experience two rites in the Province of Ranchi: the pre-agreement of the bride and groom in the presence of their families, each of them successively presenting to the other a container filled with water, a sign of life. Our assembly was the witness group on this occasion.
This was followed by the rite of foot washing to welcome a host. But here, it was about washing hands...
Sr. Shama energetically takes us to Pakistan, or more precisely to the Indo-Pakistani border, at the time of the traditional daily rite of lowering the flag at the end of the day. We felt we were there!
Sr. Angélique and Sr. Cécile, dressed in raffia loincloths, sang a song of praise to us on an African dance step: a rhythm that made us dance sitting on our chairs.
Sr. Birgit proudly announced that the Dutch-speaking Province can boast of having a true professional pastry chef among its Sisters. To prove this, Sister had made us a big box of delicious cakes! Mmmm....
And finally, Sr. Muriel speaks on behalf of the Belgian South Province to tell us some tales with a real and tasty Brussels accent. And klett, Mariett!
But it wasn’t over! Suddenly our Sr. Germaine got up and invited us to sing together. However, the last word was really with Sr. Thérèse Renoirte who expressed what we all felt in our hearts: to each and all of us, THANK YOU! And see you next year! God willing.

Sr Anne-Marie Berckmans

FIRST PROFESSION IN VIETNAM

A DAY OF JOY AND LOVE

SCJM, do you love me?... Feed my sheep!” (Jn 21:15- 17)

Every year, together with the whole church we share in the great joy of Easter. This year our joy was added to with the first profession of our four novices on 27th April 2019 - a memorable day for those who were going to be professed as well as for all the members of the Region of our Lady of Lavang of Vietnam.

The theme of the General Chapter 2017 was chosen once again as the theme of their Profession. For they were determined to give an answer to that touching yet challenging question of Jesus through their dedication to Him: “SCJM, do you love me?”. Indeed, it was done by their act of pronouncing the three evangelical counsels on that very day.

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Who could explain the feelings of four novices that day? After years of formation and discernment, four young and enthusiastic women were willing to say “yes” to the Lord’s call in the presence of their family members and the whole congregation. Although they were a little nervous and emotional, never the less their expression of love and dedication was firm and clear.

On that beautiful day, the words of the boy Samuel sounded repeatedly in the ears of those who were present in that church: “Lord, you have called me. Here I am”. Sister Roshni Barla, SCJM, the General Assistant, welcomed these four novices into the SCJM family by offering a chain and our SCJM cross.

The memory of the event that our Living God called His chosen people in the Old Testament came alive. We believe that from those moments, the history of salvation was flowing like a single stream. Yes, that very same day, a new page has been turned in the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, especially the Region of our Lady of Lavang in Vietnam.

The SCJM family has been blessed with four more members. These women voluntarily chose to follow the Lord in SCJM way of life - a life marked with simplicity and self-denial, in spite of their own limitations. Is that not witnessing to the world that there is something greater than material goods, power and position? Is that not making the joy of Easter become real and true?

The rite of Religious profession was solemnly celebrated in an atmosphere of love and prayer. Having been examined about their freedom to make this profession by the Rev. Bishop Dominic NGUYEN Van Manh, the coadjutor Bishop of Dalat diocese the four novices then prostrated in front of the altar while the choir sang Psalm 50. This has been always the most moving and beautiful moment of the ceremony.

They appeared before the congregation as sacrificial witnesses of love and the hearts of all the participants seemed to be drawn in the same destination. All joined in the same joy of witnessing the dedication of themselves in Religious life. Following that, each sister in turn pronounced her commitment to the Lord and received a cross which has inscribed on it “God is love”.

JPEG - 127.3 kb From now on these sisters will be living and witnessing to that statement. The congregation was overjoyed to welcome and congratulate the four newly professed sisters. In thanksgiving, Mother Mary’s song of praise – the Magnificat - was sung. The face of each sister was shining with joy and they radiated that joy to all who were present.

The Bishop, in His homely, focused on the gift of the call, beginning with Moses, then Peter, and our call. He especially invited all the newly professed sisters to be rooted in God, to have a greater love, for it is from God that we draw the Love and strength needed to do our mission. Every mission begins with the answer to the question of Jesus: “Do you love me?”.

The mass ended at 11.45 with an emotionally charged atmosphere and was followed by a sumptuous meal and beautiful singing and dancing and everyone enjoyed and celebrated the beautiful gift of a vocation.

Everything was good, we thanked God for His numerous blessings, and expressed our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the people who had contributed to the success of this celebration.

Through the First Religious Profession of our four sisters, the JOY of the Gospel was manifested to everyone! As Pope Francis said in one of His Apostolic Letters: “The Joy of the Gospel is only discovered in the service to others: You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love”.
(From left to right: Sr. Teresa Sâm, Sr. Anna Tin, Sr. Maria Hiền, Sr. Maria Hương)

Sr. Anna Thắng


Photos of the profession


Mali : New regional government

The Region of Mali has a new team consisting of Sr. Marguerite Tubale Matandu, Regional Superior (left), Sr. Rose Meta Kabambi (center) and Sr. Symphorose Kadd’a Tshiend (right) as councilors. The installation of new team took place in San, on 24th February 2019.
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New Provincial team in Ranchi - India

A new provincial team began its leadership ministry in the province of Ranchi from 23 February 2019. Sr. Mary Joseph Valiyankal (middle) is the new provincial superior.

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From left to right : Sister Albina Mundu, Sister Lidwin Mary Rodrigues, Sister Mary Joseph Valiyankal (Provincial Superior), Sister Elsy Joseph Vadake Vettuvazhiyil, Sister Susanna Barla.


Jubilee celebration of the Generalate

15/12/2018

This year, the SCJM Generalate celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its existence in Brussels. The celebration took place on the 15th of December 2018 in the Generalate. Mgr. Luc Van Looy, Bishop of Gent, presided over the Jubilee Eucharist. Among the invitees, there were the sisters from European provinces who were part of the Generalate community to render service to the Congregation in different ways. Especially, the presence of Sr. Ludo Vercammen, our former Superior General, was a highlight of the day.
In welcoming the guests, Sr. Lucy Jacob, our Superior General, stated:

«We are celebrating today, the presence of our “Common Home”, as Sr. Christiane Dupuis of the South Province of Belgium called it the last time we gathered here (6th Oct. this year), in the heart of Europe. If the walls of this house could speak, they will have a very long, rich and multicolored narrative to recount: the successive teams of the general government, the passage of numerous Sisters from every part of the world, visitors of all kind, the countless meetings held here, the innumerable decisions made or unmade, policies defined and directives given, meeting and exchange of cultures, fun and laughter… one can go on.
Above all, for the last 50 years, it has primarily been a home to successive generations of leadership teams – of those SCJMs who have been entrusted with the mission of leading, guiding and animating the life & mission of the Congregation, taking forward the legacy inherited from our Founder Peter Joseph Triest and Mother Placide. The core of today’s celebration, as I see it, is this: the spirit that binds us together as one.»

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Photos of the Jubilee celebration


New vice-provincial team in Rwanda

The vice province of Our Lady of Kibeho (Rwanda) has a new team consisting of Sr. Mary Paul Vadassery, vice provincial (C), and Sr. Colette Uwamahoroand (L) Sr. Athanasie Mukangoga (R) as councilors. The installation of new team took place during a meaningful prayer service at the vice-provincialate, Notre-Dame de Kibeho, Nyamata, on 10th November 2018.

Vice-Province of Our Lady of Kibeho, Rwanda


Province of St. Vincent de Paul : new provincial team

The Province of St. Vincent de Paul has a new provincial team that was installed on August 1st, 2018 in the Chapel of the Community of Our Lady of Hope in Lubumbashi.

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From left to right : Sr. Jeannette Kaseka, Sr. Jacqueline Mushikwa, Sr. Marie-Céline Bulungu (Provincial Superior), Sr. Léontia Kabedi et Sr. Marie-Jeanne Kyuma.


New leadership team for Dutch-speaking province

The Dutch-speaking province has a new leaderhip team. You meet them here: (L-R) Sr. Anne-Marie Castelein, Sr. Birgit Goslain (provincial Superior), Sr. Lieve De Beul and Sr. Veroniek Ottenburgs. The installation of the new team took place on 3rd June 2018 at our Mother House in Gent.

Dutch speaking Province, Belgium/Netherlands


New provincial team in Sri Lanka

A new provincial team began its leadership ministry in the province of Sri Lanka from 02 June 2018. Sr. Ajitha Fernando (middle) is the new provincial superior. For Councilors, we have (L-R) Sr. Yogarani Rajaratnam, Sr. Malkanti Feranando, Sr. Patsey Pitchai and Sr. Lanka Fernando.

Province of Sri Lanka


News Update

Echoes from the Generalate during the Lockdown

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


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