Rima, moderator of the Samaritan Community
In the Samaritan Community in Vilnius we are already in our third season with limitations and changes. And the most interesting thing is that in each of them, despite all the limitations, there has always been room for communion.
First season. As soon as the quarantine began in the spring of 2020, community life went to Zoom. It really seemed impossible until it happened. We met through Zoom wherever we were - in the field, in nature, at our parents' house, at the convent - and learned to listen to each other, to be present in the here and now (even if we were tempted to multitask while sitting in front of the computer), to care for each other and to support those who were afraid or worried, for example about their parents, who have a higher daily risk of getting sick because they are doctors. And when we met live, we could enjoy every caress or conversation, enjoy the fresh air in the garden or have dinner together. We learned to value and appreciate these encounters, because we used to take this live interaction for granted in our daily lives. And we rejoiced at the decision of 5 girls ending their stay in the Samaritan community to move in together, continuing the communion they had discovered, built and deepened.
Second season. The year 2020-2021 has shown how valuable each person is. Especially when you can't even visit your parents, family and friends at Christmas, when you can't leave the city because of the restrictions imposed. Sitting around the table, we said to each other: "We will remember this Christmas for a long time in our lives". Usually, the period before Christmas is full of stress and unnecessary constraints. Sitting at a festive table, with girls you have only known for four months, could have been another cause of stress. And there we were, all so different, surprised to feel at peace because the people around us had become family. Sitting around the New Year's Eve table, we shared our family traditions and ate together the food we had each prepared. No stress, no rush, no tiredness, we were here and now. We were able to be ourselves and discover what traditions we cherish in our families, what we can learn from each other, what can make us happy. And when the girls around us become so near and dear to us, the heart unknowingly opens up with its fragility that we can share without fear. Thus, even the evenings of the holidays seemed too short to search together for answers to the questions that preoccupy us: family, faith, wounds and their healing, femininity, etc. The whole experience taught us to slow down and appreciate what we have around us.
And more. Staying where we are can reveal gifts. Our mid-year retreat was a real gift. We couldn't leave as usual for a change of scenery, to refresh ourselves. But our own house - the convent - became a perfect space for it. It seemed, especially for those of us who worked and studied at home, that it would be an extra challenge, but it became a grace from God. Simple things like not having to travel and being able to start a morning retreat in the comfort of your own bed; when you forget something, you just run to your room to get it; you know where the chapel is and you can pray there in warmth and quiet... it makes you realise that this house is a gift. And Jesus is at the centre of it all.
Third season. The arrival of autumn 2021 did not promise a peaceful life, although immunization has progressed. But watching the girls grow up - finding a job, studying and working at the same time, finding what is worthy of their attention and where they are themselves - is a gift to all of us. As never before, even in the first few months in the community, we have learned to appreciate the relationship that is being built with the girls, so genuine, so alive, so sisterly. Such a family relationship, lived not only at the community meetings, but also when we go together to the local shop to do the shopping and then cook. Learning from the experience shared by the other Samaritan woman. A meeting of cultures and experiences, like the meeting of the Samaritan woman and the Jew in the Gospel of John. And above all, a relationship and the joy of enjoying what you have - a spontaneous evening of songs in the kitchen, a heart-to-heart conversation, a drawing together, or a game night after passing an exam.
All of these experiences strengthen and refresh my hope that, no matter what, I will not be alone, because I choose to notice what is near, to cherish each person who is near, and to rejoice in each of God's gifts, even the smallest.