LOCKDOWN AND A GIFT: THE SCHOOL OF ATTENTION TO THE SISTERS
I’m sure that more than ever we have seen, listened to and taken care of each other…we have won all that lost time from the past, it is so good! God is good! If attending others have been intense in the pandemic, it has been even more to our elder sisters and/or sick sisters. When I refer to elder sisters, I must precise that I am in Africa, where life expectancy is about 40, so being older than that is to be a lucky person. Being older than 50 years old is as if you win the lottery. From sixty years old onwards you get the status of an elder person and when you are 70 you are living a “bonus.” In this province, which is very young among the African provinces, our first sister is Sister Regina, for whom we thank God that she has lived for so many years and we expect that her presence continues with us many years more. This is well-known by the Congregation. Her health has had a time of big crisis during this lockdown. Poor sister. Since lockdown started, she has been living a real nightmare. This lockdown has provoked that we need to think and overcome many challenges:
- To value the national health system: As it usually is in Africa, the system is very weak. It is not because of lack of human resources. We already know that many African children are experts in many fields outside their own countries, but some others, who are more adventurous, have imported experience and technology from the west to help their brothers here, just like that couple who owns the house where sister Regina is staying.
- To modernize (in the sense of the technical platform) the structures of the health system existing that are in charge of us and also to create new platforms for serving the poorest people, among them -including us- could get benefits of quality treatments. Rich people go to Europe, poor people? They just die.
- In our governments’ health security exists only in theory, because the reality is quite different. We do not have security from the state and that does not help us in anything. Among Major Superior Assemblies of our countries, there have been many discussions about these initiatives. It might be time for taking them seriously and get engaged with one or the other.
- Tradition: as many things in Africa, taking care of elder people has also “taboos.” For example, for some peoples, the intimate part of caring an elder cannot be performed by her own daughters, but her sisters are responsible for it, while in others, this is a task that has to be developed by the youngest daughter, What senses does that have in the fraternity that we want to build? It should be clearly stated.
- Organization: the custody we provide to our dear sister Regina since January between the hospital and the house has helped us to learn how to organize ourselves around a common project, exercising the necessary virtues, without forgetting about the regular pressure we have for developing every day activities. I used to say to myself “What thing?” Here with all the youth for only one person, what a contrast in comparison with our sisters in Zaragoza, Pamplona, Huesca…with all that experience -I think- we could understand better the call from this mission and to attend our elder sisters in other places of the Congregation.
- Human Resources: inside the branches of the professional formation of health workers, there are also specialties focused on taking care of elders as it happens where young Dulecine -a postulant in Yaoundé- has studied. These are thing that we have to think about, we have richness in our professed nouns.
- Wisdom school: the time we have spent next to our dear saint is from all the resistance school in front of the suffering that passes through unbearable pain. In all these places, where her health state negatively affects her, she always grabs her black bag, where she has her mask, her rosary, her missal, her breviary and her phone to listening to her favorite radio station: Radio Maria. By doing this, she tries to keep her contact with God with all her strength and love. She has not lost the good humor; we are surprised that once in a while we burst out laughing! How does she care about the rest of the sisters? She always asked for each of them, especially for those who are her favorite, the young girls who are in formation. What about us? It is time to prepare ourselves for this life stage if we want the price.
Let’s thank God for such a beautiful gift of life, the one who is born, grows up, and teaches us to take care of her, especially in those fragility times that each of us live. Let’s thank all the elder and/or sick sisters, because they offer every day their suffering for the fertility of our ministry. How can we forget the sisters who are closer or further, especially in our council -general or provincial- who fight for always improving the quality of others’ sisters life, especially those who are suffering, elder and sick sisters.
Carine Wanko, Kinshasa