Pandemic – finding positives

Angelica Escarsa is a Columban Lay Missionary from the Philippines. She joined the society in 1999 and is assigned to Ireland. She is involved in the Columban Centre; the Youth Ministry in Dublin Diocese; working for the young people in the different parishes around the Ballymun area and an assistant chaplain in Cherryorchard Hospital. Recently Angelica has been involved with the virtual Columban International Youth Encounter and active with the Dublin Youth Group and the AMRI Lay Mission Committee. She describes how she has sought out positives from the Covid pandemic.

Looking up on the internet the difference between the word change and transformation, I came across the following statements: Change is a response to external influence, where modifying day to day action achieves desired results. Transformation on the other hand is about modifying core beliefs and long-term behaviours- sometimes in profound ways to achieve the desired results.

Transformation is what I would call the result of the experience that is happening to many of us, if not all, as we face the reality of covid-19 pandemic. Many things have been shared about how this pandemic is affecting us in a negative way. But I wonder if we have ever thought of how this can have a trans-forming effect in our lives too.

The Far East Magazine, in its first three issues in 2021, published articles from Colum-bans who shared their thoughts and reflection about the pandemic and its effect to the world.

Fr. Ray Husband, in January/February 2021 issue, said and I quote “Covid 19 pandemic has brought death, suffering and economic hardships to millions of people across our world especially to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world.”

Fr. John Boles wrote in the March and April issue: “The Covid pandemic has brought hardships and tragedy to countless numbers throughout the world. But it has also brought out the best in many people and connected up remarkable individuals who otherwise might never have met”.

Fr. George Fogarty wrote in the May and June issue “the coronavirus pandemic crept up on us like a lion through tall grass. No-body saw it coming and we could not have foreseen the changes it would make to our lives.”

To comprehend and grasp how this unprecedented phenomenon has been affecting our lives is surreal. I for one am still flabbergasted by how mysterious this covid-19 virus is, it has already taken millions of lives and yet I, having contracted the virus, survived it by taking only paracetamol, plenty of water with lemon, and rest. This pandemic is transforming my whole sense of life on earth. If I can’t learn something new as a result of this pandemic then I never will!

Pope Francis in his Fratelli Tutti (article 35) expressed these words which Fr. Cyril Lovett shared in the editorial page in the March/April issue:
“If only this may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing… If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth.”

For many months Ireland has been on a lock-down where no one is permitted to travel outside their own county and can only go within 5 km radius. It was only in May this year when the government has started to ease the restrictions allowing intercounty travel.

I live in a council house in Ballymun which is only an hour walk to the Columban Centre. Because of the lockdown my ministry and meetings with different groups like SIM, Youth Ministry with the Dublin Diocese, the Lay Mission Group Support in Dublin are all done online. My movement has been limited to the house, the park, Glasnevin Cemetery and the shop.

For many months this has been my world and, in a positive way, this has also brought change into my life…

a. More connected, through technology, with others like family, friends, and those in the ministry because I am physically distant from them..b. Spiritually nourished because I have a deeper longing for God while I couldn’t go to the church.
c. More aware of the vulnerability of life because I have no control over this covid-19.
d. More aware of my mortality when I had the covid-19. This brought me to a deeper surrender of my life to God. Also, as I considered the possibility that every night could be my last, I experienced a deeper gratitude for this gift of life.
e. I become spiritually connected to my family as we pray the rosary everyday no matter what our situation is. I have also begun to set aside time for silent prayer.

This is not just a change that I see happening now and will go away. This is a transformation that is going to be with me due to this time of pandemic.

We need one another to realise the truth that we are not alone even if we are physically isolated during this time when face to face gathering is prohibited. This realisation can be one of the positive and transforming aspects of the pandemic.

I truly hope that the worldwide tragedy of Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened the sense that we are a global community… “we are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another.” (Fratelli Tutti Article 32)

“God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of “them” and “those”, but only “us” … (FT #35)

This brought me to see how perfect the timing is for the Columban International Youth Encounter. For young people they need this venue as a platform to be with their peers not only from their own country but from other parts of the world.

I hope this pandemic will bring transformation within all of us, modifying our core beliefs and long-term behaviours in a pro-found way, so as to awaken within us the desire of becoming whole by recognising our need to be connected to others.

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