As of 31st March 2020
I am writing to bring you greetings and share an update from the Uganda-Kenya Province. We are praying for you all for God’s protection against Covid-19. We thank the General Council for their constant communication to us and for their safe arrival to the Mother House. We are all well so far, trying to take all the possible precautions against this virus.
Beginning with the second week of March we began panicking as our surrounding countries got their first cases of COVID-19. Kenya got the first case on 13th March: a young woman who had just returned from England. As the days went by, more cases were reported by the Ministry of Health in Uganda and Kenya.
As we watched and listened to the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in other countries we began to fear because our airports were open and many flights were still coming in and out. We began getting media messages calling us to take serious precautions (put on masks, wash hands, sanitize hands, no shaking hands, etc.).
This high peak of Covid-19 came soon after we received a Decree from the Archbishop of Kampala and Nairobi stopping all the faithful from receiving the Eucharist in hands, but to do so on the tongue. I want to tell you that we had conflict with this decree. Many of us wondered how we could receive Jesus on the tongue with this virus at our doors. Amidst the confusion the Government directed all places of big gathering to put sanitizers at every entrance. Seeing sanitizers at the entrances of our Church, with a warning “only use it when coming in and use it once because it is very expensive.” Our parish priest was not sure what to do about the Decree. Some of us decided to receive Jesus in the hand and, if refused, we were ready to stop receiving Jesus. We wanted to speak for the voiceless in action. Before the Decree was revisited, the President gave, as one of the directives, orders to close all the places of worship. After a few days, the Conference of Bishops in Uganda sent their directives, among which was the one stopping the faithful from receiving the Eucharist on the tongue. We pray, that even after the crisis, we will be allowed to receive the Eucharist in our hands.
Both the Presidents of our two countries addressed the nations with a variety of control measures. Among them was closing all the education institutions, places of worship, borders, and the cancellation of big gatherings, etc. All our sisters working in schools had to urgently call the parents to take their children home.
Like in other countries, our Presidents both in Kenya and Uganda have been vigilant in addressing us constantly about the control measures. The Covid-19 cases have been quarantined in common places, and a few in their homes. Beginning from 24th evening, all public transport including Boda Bodas (motorcycles) were stopped in Uganda; and in Kenya the President imposed curfew from 7:00PM to 5:00AM. These measures have been reinforced by the police and military in both countries, and these have caused both positive and negative effect. In some places the police have been violent, beating those who have not followed the directives. Many people got stranded on streets, looking for some means of transportation to take them to their homes of origin in the villages - this was painful. The traders hiked the prices for most of the essential commodities, making life hard for the majority of people, especially for those with no jobs, or those who are employed as casual workers. There is no public transport, but walking to work is hard or impossible. The health sector is most affected by this because the health workers find it hard to reach the medical centers. In Uganda we have shortage of medical equipment for testing Covid-19, since we only have one hospital in the country.
Today as I write, Uganda has 30 cases, among which is an eight-month-old baby who contracted the disease from her father who had travelled from abroad. Kenya has 38 cases, with one death. All the cases are "imported." Our fear is that we are in the incubation period, and we expect to get more cases in the coming days because all the current cases have mixed with some people in one way or another. We expect more restrictions in the event that there is an increase in Covid cases in both Countries.
What all RSCJ are doing during this time of challenge:
All of us, including our families, collaborators, students etc. are so far still okay. We stay home, and we cannot thank God enough for having all that we need, while being mindful of those who are hungry, and those in desperate situations in hospitals, and those who cannot access any medical facility for lack of transport.
We have intensified prayer. Some communities have perpetual adoration; others have periodic adoration, and other means of prayers. Some communities have private Masses in the communities (only those who are very close the parish churches and living in the same compound with the priests; with a small number, they are able to keep social distance.) Other communities have paraliturgies and attend Masses on television.
We are united with the entire world, and especially with the countries that are most affected by this virus. We see almost what everything that happens in these countries on television and we are left speechless. With special love and care we are united with the Society, and especially with the provinces in the countries where the death toll rises by the hour. We look at the pierced Heart of Jesus with hope, and put all our cries to Him, who alone has the eternal remedy.
This is a time of uncertainty for we do not know what will happen tomorrow or next week. We are becoming more aware of our total dependence on God. Paradoxically, this time has renewed our style of life. We are living together more than ever; we care for each other, and eat all meals together. We spend more time together, and do things together more than ever. We are becoming more contemplative and the four Calls of our Chapter 2016 are lived at another level that is deeper than before. We live more humanly, renewing our relationships. W e have more time for silence, as we sit before the Lord gazing without words; and there is also less noise in our neighborhood. We are and act as One Body, and have reached new frontiers in one way or another. We are united in solidarity. Social or economic class counts less, and ecumenism has been strengthened. This is the way to go as we prepare for the new manner of organizing ourselves in a world that is segmented in different ways.
This situation has reawakened the need for us to use technology. In their previous meeting, the Provincial Chapter Committee had a Skype meeting. We thank the General Council and the International Communication Team for the effort you are taking to help us gain more technological skills. Most of the sisters work from home. The students have online studies, and the governments encourage institutions to hold classes using different possible media, ranging from radios to internet etc. This is much harder for many students knowing that many do not have computers or smart phones, and many have with unstable internet connection, or no access to networks at all.
Let us keep each other in love and prayer, and find hope in our Creator.
United in the Trinity,