Growing in Faith
A Holy Union Reflection for Summer 2020
This month’s Reflection comes to us from Sr. Alice Michael, SUSC. With COVID – 19 our schedules have been disrupted and so we are a bit behind with our monthly reflections. Fittingly, our summer reflection speaks to the disruption the pandemic has had on our lives. Thank you Sister Alice!
Our call to be at the heart of the world revealing God’s love has challenged me to reflect on how I could live up to this when finding myself quite limited and enclosed in the four walls of my home during the worst months of the pandemic. However, many opportunities emerged to accompany and console so many. Though I am very conscious that everyone has had his or her own experience of the pandemic, I would like to share just some of my personal experiences.
All of New York City but especially my county of Queens was really hard hit. All day and night we could hear the blaring sirens of ambulances. It sent shock waves up my spine. Each day I was getting calls notifying me of persons who were extremely ill or had been called Home, some of whom were my friends, two priests that I knew very well, and a deacon whom I had taught in the diocesan diaconate program. The dad of two of our children in the Faith Formation Program died also. The dad of a six-month old baby who was to be baptized in April succumbed to the virus. I must honestly admit that I was scared. In my building we had three persons infected, two of whom succumbed to the virus.
Prayer and the support and encouragement that I received from Sisters, friends, and colleagues through calls and emails gave me peace amid the sufferings. My cousin, Father Jack Oliveira, has been checking in on me daily ever since the pandemic began. How many times did he encourage and cajole me to dare to step out for a little sun with no success! The support that I received enabled me to virtually accompany and be a listening ear to so many in their grief, to spend time on the phone with them, to arrange for wake and burial prayers via iPhone set on speaker, and to even solicit money to help defray the cost of burial for the husband of one of my catechists.
I am sure that many of you saw the horrors of Elmhurst Hospital with its huge vans outside for all the corpses. One of our parishioners was taken there and we all cried out, “Why there? Oh no, how did that happen?” Thanks be to God she did recuperate and has shared her experience with us. She repeats over and over she could never fault the nurses and doctors because they were doing their best. It was just that the number of patients was completely out of control. She spent three days on the gurney because there was no bed. She saw patients lying on the floor with their backs to the wall and a rolled up towel for a pillow waiting to be tended to. After eight days she was transferred to Roosevelt Hospital where she gradually improved and was allowed to come home.
I have been so edified by the generous outpouring of so many people helping to distribute food and some being quite innovative in their manner of responding to so many needs. In communicating with my Confirmandi, I suspended their twenty hours of service emphasizing that I am more than convinced that each of them has been witness and hopefully part of so much self-giving as families struggled to help one another.
As in many places, high rents In Brooklyn and Queens make it necessary for two families to live together in very small apartments. All of this contributed to extremely high numbers of victims in some of our areas. That has been one of the reasons that quite often whole families contracted the virus. In one family that I know, mom, dad, and 40 year old daughter died leaving three children.
The present horrific reality of racial injustices, violence, shootings, protests (some of which are peaceful and others very violent) etc. is contributing to our present anxieties and fears. This is bringing me back in memory to the riots in East Harlem during my first years of ministry at St. Francis De Sales. There just seems to be so many pent up emotions, anxieties, and fears! However, we know deep in our hearts that the Lord is with us in every moment and will in some way bring good out of this whole situation. May we stay close to God and in little or big ways find opportunities to share our faith and accompany so many struggling for healing and peace.
God’s love is often powerfully revealed in the small gestures: a smile, a note, a phone call. Be mindful of this as we all seek ways to reveal God’s love during these days when it is most needed. Courage!