When the Corona Virus arrived in Africa………...
The corona virus has spread throughout the whole world. Starting with China it spread through Europe and the United States. It reached us in Senegal on March 2nd and with the appearance of the first case, death quickly followed. Sadness and emotion then began to increase in the country, while some locked themselves into denial. Others, with a lack of awareness almost indifference, convinced themselves that "this disease only affects white skins". So they say “What can I do?”
Then the pandemic gained ground in the country. On March 14, our President Mr Macky Sall, decided to close schools and universities throughout the country. Following the action of Head of State; the bishops decided, a week later, to close all the churches even though we were in the middle of Lent, marching towards Easter!
The government continued to make more decisions, well known to all, and accepted by most people. Even if some, especially young people, by provocation refused to follow these decisions. At present there is not a total confinement of people in their homes however, all groups are forbidden under any pretext, even for burials to mix with other people. Our borders are closed, travel is limited, but for those who need to travel, buses and taxis only allow one person in two on board to maintain a healthy distance between people. We don't shake hands anymore. You are asked to wash your hands regularly, or to use antiseptic gel.
However, hospitals, health centres and clinics have remained open to accommodate all sick patients. Some of our sisters are directly involved in this service, while others try to comfort those most affected by the pandemic in whatever way they can be of help.
So how did we, SSJA sisters, experience this situation in our Region of Senegambie/Congo? In accordance with the guidelines issued by our leaders at Congregational, Ecclesial, Local and National level we have tried to respond in an appropriate manner. We sisters, while remaining attentive and informed of the evolution of the pandemic by listening daily to the news at international and local levels, tried to reach out to those families around us most affected by the virus. So many people suffer from the mental anxiety of the spread of this new virus and its different effects on their daily lives.
Some sisters have taken this time to explore our archives and rediscover the lesser-known aspects of our history as we approach a new milestone in our story and evolution. Some reflected on and deepened the texts of the congregation through regular reading. Other sisters used the lockdown time to learn to better use the gift of social media networks. This period of restrictions to our normal activities of outreach to our dear neighbour was also an intense time of renewed intimacy with God. It has particularly united us in the Congregation, because it has allowed us to carry the concerns of our SSJA provinces and regions worldwide affected by the virus.
Moreover, this time is giving us the opportunity to showcase our creativity in so many productive ways. For example, by gardening, especially market gardening which makes it possible to eat in a more "organic” way to respect and protect mother earth.
Like all good farmers, some of us have taken the risk of finding more arable land to sow peanuts which, thanks to the heavy rains, have yielded a good harvest this year Thank God.
We had the joy of seeing our novices learning new skills such as tie-dye. Some communities have improved their living environment through horticulture and other new activities they can later share with local women for the welfare of their families.
With funding from “Misean Cara” in Ireland, we were able to buy protective equipment supplies and food to support low-income families at this very difficult time for so many families.
Aware of the immense suffering, anguish and instability that people have experienced during this disease, it is still important to continue to respect the necessary measures of social distancing, wearing masks with frequent hand washing ourselves and to encourage all around us to do the same.
In the face of this unprecedented crisis, there is no doubt that there is an urgent call to deepen our identity as Daughters of the “Little Design” by getting closer to the essentials of our vocation and redefining our priorities in the service of Jesus Christ expressed in the of the “dear neighbour”.
Given the uncertainty of the times we live in and the risk of initiating long-term projects, we still press forward in hope and trust that the Spirit of God will show us the way. That is why it is urgent that we always remain in trust and solidarity with each other and in all places.
God bless and keep us all safe as we remain united in prayer.
Sr. Marie Pitie