As of 31st March 2020
Like one-third of world citizens, a few weeks behind Italy, we are isolated in Belgium, in France, and in the Netherlands. Our elder sisters are in their rooms in nursing homes in Brussels, La Hulpe, Poitiers, Lyon, and Montpellier. Most of us are in our communities where the reality of the pandemic has shaken up the "routine" and added another layer to everyday activities.
For most of our salaried employees in schools, arrangements have been made for telecommuting, childcare, or partial unemployment. Schools and the Sophie Barat Centre have been closed since 17th March.
Some of our sisters, those who are doctors, hospital chaplains, educators, continue their work.
Communication technology (telephone, texting, Zoom, WhatsApp) has allowed us to be creative in order to ensure connections among sisters, to deal with the “business” of the province, and to renew the preparations for the General Chapter in the face of this reality that has come upon as a surprise.
We are aware that we are among the privileged because of the environment in which we live, our economic situation, a certain custom of living together on a daily basis, the experience of silence and interiority, access to culture ... while so many families, carers, workers have to juggle with work, childcare, concern for loved ones, loneliness...
We are stunned, shaken, mindful, and saddened too, about the vulnerable state of so many people here and all around the world. By and large, out of solidarity with our fellow citizens and with those who care for them, in our homes for the elderly in particular, we take the protocols seriously and responsibly. We engage in more intensive prayer with and for the world, and we have the joy of being in communion together, especially by attending the Eucharistic celebrations on television.
This Lent imposes itself on our lives, and it is joined by another kind of forty-days (quarantine) that leaves us no choice but to go through it. We try to look at what is happening with profound eyes of faith and to welcome the present reality.
We spend more time together and share more space with the sisters of the community. This is an opportunity to live in fraternity and in union of minds. But we must also be vigilant so that this new scenario of coexistence may be, at the same time, a place of encounter, calm, closeness, and freedom.
The coronavirus sometimes plays havoc with our confined nerves. We fall asleep with the statistics on the number of deaths of the day here or elsewhere, especially in Italy, to which we feel closest; we wake up with the brightness of spring or the state of the French polemics, or the information that a member of our family has been infected... Some of us have lost loved ones, some of us are affected, and our average age sometimes reminds us of our vulnerability and arouses fear.
"Take care of yourself!" is now the phrase at this time of quarantine to express our care for oneself and for others, like a secular version of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
As Albert Uderzo (+), the cartoonist of the adventures of Asterix and Obelix, sketched die-hard Gauls who resist the Roman Emperor Caesar, we dream of the banquet and the hugs that will bring this adventure to a close, and we hope it will have transformed us enough to love and care more for our human sisters and brothers and our planet with the same Love that God has for them.
With much love,