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In Europe the situation is unprecedented. The life of every Community in our four countries has been touched and changed. During this period the Sisters took time to share some news, thoughts and prayers. In reading them, it was necessary to do away with a lot of sharing. Pity!
We're already in the sixth week of solitary confinement! It is not easy to describe what we are going through. On the one hand, the daily bulletin tells us about difficult situations that, day after day, we feel closer and closer to us and to the people around us. On the other hand, as a Community, we have decided to organize ourselves so that this time is a time of grace and not just a time of waiting. Our days have new rhythms; we give more space to community life, to prayer, to relaxation: we study the documents of the CGP, we say the Rosary in communion with the Christian families of the diocese for the end of the pandemic, some afternoons we watch a film ... But in reality we have never stopped working. This time of greater Community closeness is making solidarity and collaboration grow among us, making us more attentive to each other to support, discreetly, the moments of sadness or resignation that from time to time inhabit us. It is a moment of grace, a more radical way of living Lent, in search of the essential and in the effort to care for relationships ad intra and ad extra towards our families, friends, students and their families, our collaborators.
In Community we chose moments to form ourselves together (CGP Conferences, MME texts, articles on current events) and to share the Lectio on the Gospel of Sunday. This brings out in each one the sincere questioning, the beautiful certainties, the wonder for the light brought by the other.
A Sister from the infirmary, in the light of the feast of the Annunciation, said: "It is as if God takes flesh again in our world of today, so tried and afraid, in order to arouse the solidarity that makes his tenderness close".
Life in England changed drastically from the evening of 23rd March, when the government announced a ‘lockdown’. We are now only allowed to leave our homes to buy food or medicine, for daily exercise, to travel to work where absolutely necessary, for medical needs or to help the vulnerable. This measure was taken relatively late in the UK, with the government initially proposing focusing on shielding the most vulnerable and relying on herd immunity once enough people had been infected. However, once studies showed that this policy would lead to over 200,000 deaths and overwhelming the NHS (National Health Service) the lockdown was set in place. The constant mantra is: “Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
Following an initial reaction of stockpiling, people now are more focused on the needs of the sick and those most at risk, as well as supporting all the front-line workers. There is a concern for the homeless (although many have been offered accommodation during the crisis) and those relying on foodbanks, as well as those living in cramped accommodation, particularly families with small children. While an increased use of technology is helping people stay connected, there is a growing awareness of the consequences of the lockdown for mental wellbeing.
Life in our communities has become much quieter and more prayerful. We are blessed with good neighbours and offers of practical help and support, as well as the means of participating in mass ‘online’, with a large variety of places to ‘visit’ in this way. Like everyone else, we are full of admiration for the medical workers and all the front-line workers. A very positive consequence of the current situation is the esteem in which low-skilled essential work, such as cleaners or supermarket workers are now held, as well, of course, as medical staff who are cheered by the nation at 8pm each Thursday evening.
Confinement obliges us to apostolic creativity: catechesis at home online, board of directors through the Zoom video conference process, Welcome-Babbelkot's annual report in tele-work, spiritual accompaniment through written or telephone messages. Sites are explored to provide Welcome-Babbelkot children with French exercises to maintain their study of the language.
At 8 p.m. we go out on the balconies and windows to applaud the doctors and nursing staff to support them. Yesterday evening, we were surprised by Alma playing the accordion and it added such a nice atmosphere to the neighborhood, an opportunity to greet each other from afar between neighbors and to know each other in good health.
We decided that the mornings would be in silence to pray, read and do manual work. We shared all our tasks well. Chantal responded to an official request: to sew masks! So she is busy! Three days, in the afternoon, we meet to read together ‘Dear Amazon’, to see a film and for a Community meeting.
Pierre, a neighbour, - with great concern for us, - has offered to do all our shopping... Yes, our life has changed... How many times at Chapters etc. we have spoken about the anxiety of the accelerated rhythm of our life, and all of a sudden the situation brings us to something more human! As many have already said: "we will come out of this situation stronger"!
Lithuania closed its borders and declared quarantine on March 13 and we hope that this will help to manage the situation. Only food shops and pharmacies are operating. No more than two people can walk around the city together. Masks must be worn outside. It is expected that, even if the situation stabilizes, schools and universities will not be reopened at the same time. Behind the quarantine, there is a huge shadow enveloping families at social risk. There are fears of an escalation of violence, domestic alcoholism, and so on. For most of us the pace of work remains tight, especially when working (courses, consultations, meetings...) "online". We have developed our IT knowledge well in the last few days!
We transmitted live via Facebook the Liturgy of Darkness during the Easter Triduum and many of our friends were grateful for the opportunity to pray together.
We would very much like this time of crisis to be an opportunity to deepen what God is telling us in these events. A Lithuanian hymn contains the words: "We will not come out empty from Your depths, we will not remain the same". Let us hope that we will come back to life differently after this quarantine...