"Be strong and of good courage, all you who hope in the Lord" Ps 30:25.
While the Pope had just exhorted us to live Lent as a favourable time, various messages followed, announcing a catastrophe: the Corona virus that travels the planet. On March 14, 2020 in Rwanda, and on March 19, 2020 in Chad, the first cases of people suffering from the Corona virus were officially announced. Since then, measures to limit the spread of the virus have been taken. Our schools, reception and training centres and other places where we carry out pastoral activities have all been closed. There are no more services outside our fences and for the time being it is not possible to continue our missions via internet. It is total confinement except for a few exceptions for emergencies. The police are keeping a strict watch on it. Only our Sisters of the Rwankuba Community, with the mission of caring for the sick, see their work intensify day by day. In Gikondo, the Sisters closed the bakery for a day. Following the request of many people, they reopened the bakery and took measures to house half of the workers.
The health crisis that the world is going through concerns us all. We are more sensitive to what is happening at home and elsewhere while raising our prayers to the Master of everything as a call to us. The novena to St. Marie Eugenie that the Superior General proposed to us, the calls of the Pope and our local pastors and so many other initiatives taken by our Communities (all day adoration, the rosary...) make this concrete. March 27 was for us a day of intense prayer in communion with the Holy Father. We had a strong spiritual experience that freed us from fear and renewed our way of living our intercession for the world. The lockdown brought a change in our lifestyle and a new way of living in our houses: prolonged prayer, different manual activities, a new disposition of our meeting places to respect the distance ordered. Our Sisters in Chad tell us: You can imagine that this also helps us to carry positively the heat which the Chadians expected to be a weapon of combat since, it was said, this virus does not survive above 26°C whereas here the temperature varies between 30°-35°C. Is this not a threat taken as an opportunity? Indeed, the panic of COVID 19 has been alleviated and the lockdown, even if it is very closely monitored, does not frighten people beyond measure. We hear from so many people that they have found the time to recover physically and free themselves from the stress of work. Families have the rare experience of spending the day together. Parents discover the joy of being at home and it is a joy for the children.
The state keeps reminding us of protective measures. The Church collaborates in this and our pastors, with creativity, find ways to be close to the faithful: Masses and other practices of piety are transmitted on many radios and televisions as well as on YouTube so that the faithful can follow these from their homes. In Chad, church bells ring at 5 a.m. to remind Christians to be in communion with the Church by praying in their families. We are in communion with all the faithful deprived of celebrating together and we give thanks to God for our two Communities in Chad and the Communities of Rwaza and Rwankuba who, having daily Mass, carry and represent us there. In our two countries, the lockdown has led so many people into great poverty. At the call of the local authority, of Caritas, and through the initiative of the people, gestures of solidarity are intensified to come to the aid of those in need. We are making some sacrifices to respond to this urgent appeal. The population, though anxious and confused, is generously committing itself to these acts of solidarity and many are launching themselves with faith in a confident prayer for God to deliver us from the Corona virus pandemic.
New cases of people with Corona virus are continually coming in and being treated by medical services. Fortunately there are no deaths yet and some are recovering. The number of Corona virus carriers has reached 118 in Rwanda and 10 in Chad. We continue our intercessory prayer for the world and we lived this Holy Week in intense prayer as a way of accompanying our wounded Lord in the humanity suffering in different ways because of the Corona virus. Yes, this Lent has been a favourable time, a time of intense prayer, fasting and sharing, of desert more than was usually experienced. It has been a favourable time to regain our awareness of being created, poor and fragile, that God is above all and to grow in trust in Him.
Happy Easter to all of you.
Sr. Marie Rose and the Communications Commission