Covid-19 Update: KOC Province

As of 27th March 2020

We are very grateful for your encouraging letter to all sisters written on March 25. We are going to share it with our mission partners after translating into Korean. I think the questions you gave will be very helpful for us to reflect on the past two months we spent in quarantine time because of the epidemic COVID19 and also on the coming days that we have to live and which we can’t predict.

It has been two months since the first confirmed cases came out on January 20 in Korea and now we have 9,137 confirmed cases and 126 deaths as of March 26. All schools that should have opened in early March have postponed their opening days to April 6th, but no one knows if they will be able to open on that day, and no one can predict when the pandemic disease will end.

All the Korean Catholic dioceses have had no Mass during the Lent, which is unprecedented in our Church history, and the Korean bishops conference decided to set the time to begin celebrating Mass again according to the circumstances of each diocese, approximately at the same time of opening of the schools.

In our Wonhyo-ro Campus in Seoul, thanks to Jesuit priests we have Mass every other day, but laypeople from outside are not allowed to be with us because the outsiders are not allowed to enter the school ground, and we will have our Holy Week liturgy on our own. It will be the first Easter Mass without any invited guests. We are praying every single day for the Coronavirus victims and family members who take care of them, medical staffs and volunteers who helped them.

Based on the experience of the MERS outbreak in 2015, we are trying to maintain our daily lives as much as possible, and since this could be a long-term battle, we are trying to carry out the work according to the plan of 2020 Provincial Office. Nevertheless, the Thanksgiving Mass for the final profession of Srs. Bang Jeong-hye and Kim Ji-hye was postponed to the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and a special lecture of the KOC Province scheduled for April 4 will be conducted with the Zoom Conference. The Council Meeting and Community Coordinators’ Meeting were held as scheduled, and Provincial Council will visit the communities from April 18 to May 19. And I will meet each member during this time.

We are living in an unstable period, but ironically, we are living a very intimate and contemplative life. We are trying not to go out, so we are eating together three meals a day almost every day, spending time together, and are doing things that we had usually put off. We are taking care of household chores and cleaning up every corner of the community. We also concentrate more on our prayer life. I am very grateful that I can communicate from time to time by skype and email with our sisters in Taiwan and our new missions in Asia.

At Barat Community, a community for elderly sisters, sisters began to pray the Office before lunch every day for our people and the world. Sisters are living in a relatively safe condition, but we are thinking of our poor neighbours who have to work outside for their living. Our Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Paju had to close for two months in February and March, but it wasn’t easy to cut the salaries for the employees, so staff members decided to make up for some losses by making and selling apple jams and orange jams. In Bucheon, the Shelter for Girls carry on their service as usual, keeping the girls at home, while paying attention to the health precautions as well as cheering up the spirits of the girls and staff with special activities. When the newcomers arrive, they have to be isolated for two weeks before joining the other girls. At Saenal Study Room, the children cannot come to the center, so the sisters prepare supper to be delivered to the children so that they can have at least one full meal a day at home. At Sammul day care center, Sr. Kim Ji Sun and teachers are taking care of about 10 children among 64 who need urgent care on behalf of their parents.

We feel keenly that the world is now connected as one and we can foresee that the world will be reorganized into a new structure when we overcome this epidemic. Praying for the next year's Special Chapter, we hope that today's reality will allow the world to be closer and push us to share our resources generously as one body.

United in the Sacred Heart,

Choi Hae Young rscj, in the name ofthe sisters in the KOC Province