Issue No. 30
“Living with Covid-19”
Covid-19 continues to be a challenging time for people. It is a time of trial, but also it may be a time of grace. Among the bearers of grace are our front-line workers, especially our medical personnel. One of the most human aspects of the pandemic is the way in which it has stirred our gratitude for our healthcare workers, especially those who are caring so well for us in our nursing homes and hospitals. When the lock-down happened back in March, our community of six Brothers prepared for what we imagined would be short- lived but how wrong we were. Ten months later we are still living with the virus. The development of a vaccine is welcome news indeed. The daily diet of news updates can be a draining experience. Engaging in more life-giving activities decreases stress. Healthy-eating, exercise, connecting with friends and family where possible, upskilling, and continuing to maintain a daily rhythm is important.
Morning prayer is followed by breakfast. Some tune into mass on-line, while others attend to their own personal or community responsibilities. I believe prayer and meditation often reverses the effects of stress, something we all have in common. Meditation can be a natural form of relaxation, and all prayer reminds us of the meaning of life and our intimate connection with God and others.
In the afternoons, there is the option of a walk in the park or attending to our garden. In the evenings, we gather again for prayer, followed by time for evening meal. Sometimes, there is a zoom call or meeting to attend to. Before retiring, there is an opportunity for reading, listening to music, or catching up on the news of the day. Personally, I like consistency and at this stage, we are settled into the ‘new normal’. Just like everyone else there are highs, lows, laughs, arguments, time to relax and time to be together.
Here in Killarney, our community lives in the midst of nature. We are blessed with a spacious garden to the rear of our residence with a green-house to boot. Not everyone is so lucky. The garden and green-house demands much attention, especially during the Summer months; there is grass to be cut, hedges to be trimmed and plants to be attended to, not to speak of green fingers for the fruits and vegetables, all organic of course!
I have learned that nature thrives in the absence of human activity! How ironic! Creation begins to heal itself! It is not a co-incidence that Pope Francis launched a year-long celebration to mark the fifth anniversary of his environmental encyclical, ‘Laudato Si,’ noting that its message was as prophetic for this time as it was in 2015. Apparently, Pope Francis once called his encyclical, ‘a love letter to the earth’. As I reflected on it again, I believe that human exploitation of the natural world and the pandemic are inextricably linked.
More recently, Pope Francis noted too while writing his latest encyclical “Fratelli tutti”, covid-19 erupted exposing other viruses and false securities of our world. He states, we cannot go back to the world the way it was prior to the pandemic. This is our chance to build a new society based on loving our neighbour,
and in it he outlines his vision for what that society might look like in the future.
Personally, I am enjoying the opportunity to see and experience things in a different way. I realise it is not the same for everybody. I was familiar with Skype before the pandemic, but now it’s Zoom and I feel I am Zoomed out with virtual meetings. While it is a very useful facility, nothing can replace the human, social interaction with one another, family and friends.
We have to ease ourselves into the new reality with compassion for ourselves, our families and for one another in these strange times. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and if covid-19 is teaching us anything, it’s about the need to be kinder to ourselves and how we live our lives in the future. We need to take things at a slower pace, if possible. We are here, we are healthy, we are grateful, and being busy every hour of every day is not necessarily something to be proud of.
I like the following blessing by John O ‘Donohue from his book of blessings, ‘To bless the space between us:’
This is the time to be slow, Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let The wire brush of doubt Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself And your hesitant light,
If you remain generous, Time will come good;
And you will find your feet Again on fresh pastures of promise
Where the air will be kind And blushed with the beginning. Book of blessings – John O’Donohue
Br Rupert O Sullivan, Presentation Brothers
Vocations Ireland, AMRI Office, C/O Missionaries of Africa, Cypress Grove Road, Templeogue, Dublin 6W YV12 Phone: 086 782 0149
It is coming up to a month since I first stepped off the plane at Rumbek Airport. Since my arrival, it has been a whirlwind of new experiences. The first thing you notice, in fact you
can’t miss it, is the heat. I went from winter in Ireland to an average daily temperature of 37C and I was reliably informed that this was the coolest part of the year. I am fascinated that each morning there are people out and about with coats and a few wool hats. They in
turn are mystified how I’m surviving sporting shorts and a t-shirt!
I am still settling into life at Loreto Rumbek and it has been a special privilege.
It originally began as a school in 2008 under a tree in a scrub field five kilometres outside of the town that was gifted to the sisters by a local chief. Its purpose was to educate young girls, a challenge in an environment where schooling was almost exclusively restricted to
boys. South Sudan is still ranked as the world’s most difficult nation in the world for girls to receive an education, with only three out of a hundred having the opportunity to go to secondary school. Just over half of all girls are married before they are eighteen years old and almost one in five are married before they are fifteen.
When the Loreto Sisters began their work in Rumbek, they were told they were wasting their time. It was obvious to everyone that students wouldn’t come. They came. Then they were told the girls wouldn’t go on to secondary school. They persevered. Then they were told they wouldn’t graduate. Apparently, no one told the girls because they graduated anyway. To stand against the weight of cultural expectations requires a school that sees the very best in each student and a student with a courage of conviction that would be beyond most adults. Over the last twelve years the project has grown from a few chairs under a tree and now includes a primary school with 1,200 children, a secondary with 300 girls, an agricultural project, and the newly opened primary health care clinic. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and 2020 has been especially difficult. The pandemic has caused widespread disruption around the world and South Sudan is no exception. However, Loreto has had their final classes of primary and secondary school back since autumn because they will still sit state exams in spring. We will need to keep them in our prayers.
We continue to work closely with AMRI with the view to becoming a committee of AMRI. We have agreed a Terms of Reference and now wait to hear from AMRI what the next stage should be.
March saw the arrival of COVID 19 This which brought a lot of pain and suffering.
It also brought many challenges. Most of our lives were turned upside down and we had to find new ways of working and being involved in Ministry. Everything was moved online including our workshops, prayer days, spiritual direction, discernment conversations, and meetings. We lost our office due to St Mary’s going into liquidation. I am now currently working from home. Our furniture and records are in storage in AMRI. Webinars and the Autumn Conference were hosted on zoom. We also held two successful workshops via zoom. We have offered more training Facebook, twitter and zoom both in groups and individually to those who requested assistance. All executive meetings have been held on Zoom. I have attended Convocation with the NRVC on Zoom and some workshops. Looking forward to an exciting year ahead in 2021 as we grow through the pandemic and like the phoenix rise to surface with new beginnings, new challenges and new possibilities.
Some things to look forward to:
- Closer collaboration with AMRI
- An exciting Vocation Music Award Project
- New On-line discernment programs
- Webinar on Inter-congregational Formation Programs
- Webinar on Culture diversity
- Professional development workshops for new/returned Directors Formators and Leaders
- Professional development workshops aimed to assist our Missionary Congregations
Meanwhile thank you to everyone who has contributed to the work of Vocations Ireland this year. A special word of thanks to Sr Mary O’Reilly for her assistance in looking after the finances. Anne Marie Whelan and Michelle Robertson for social media training and also to Anne-Marie for our newsletters. Sr Carmel Ryan for updating our website.
Redemptoristine sisters for the thought for the day on Facebook. Thanks to Keilah Blohm for managing Facebook. Thanks to our hard working Executive.
This has been a very busy year and I have been unable to take all my holiday. Therefore the office will close on 18th December and reopen 11th January. Office hours are 10.00a.m.-5.00p.m.
Wishing each and every one a very happy and blessed Christmas.
Margaret Cartwright Director Vocations Ireland