LIFE AND MISSION DURING LOCKDOWN: COMMUNITY ASCENSION NICOL IN LUANDA
Coronavirus COVID-19’s pandemic challenges the whole world. It has stopped most work activities and many people are unemployed, complicating even more human being’s life, preventing coexistence among people, obliging us to keep social distance and forcing us to stay at home. What is curious is that un Luanda we are all living a stage where masks have become everybody’s ID, without differentiating of social class, sex or age. It sounds as a comedy in which we, as community, have been living a process of reconsidering our lives and we are invited to examine our personal history and to take off masks to be ourselves. All this is due to a virus that, at first sight, does not have neither size nor color and that for many of our contemporaries is just a myth.
In front of all this, we stop and just like Saint Paul 1:20-21 we ask ourselves: “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?” Up to now, all of us have asked God to set us free from this evil while we protect ourselves using bitter herbs that natural medicine offers us due to the fact that scientific investigation has not yet found an effective method to fight this virus mortal virus.
Despite this panorama, lockdown has not meant for us to disconnect from the Mission as we have found other means to keep presence in the lives of brothers and sisters of the community and in the health, charity and education pastoral.
As community: we have taken advantage of this time to go in depth our personal and communitarian prayers and personal and communitarian study for being together in all the community acts, something which in normal times was not always possible due to everyday activities. We celebrate our faith through different means of communication: Angolan public television, Radio Ecclesia (Angolan Catholic Radio) and other international channels that have been in line to Pope Francis’ activities (Mass, Adoration, etc.) In the last months, thanks to the availability of priests of our parish, we have celebrated Sunday masses. Along with us, two Dominican Missionary of the Rosary lay couples participate.
In Health: under the motto “United by the integral welfare of the Person,” sister Guilhermina, San Francisco Xavier Medical Center director and member of the Pastoral Archdiocesan Health Council in collaboration with Charity Archdiocesan and a multidisciplinary team (volunteers, social workers, nursing technicians, diagnostic and therapeutic technicians, doctors and catechists) have attended people and given presentations about health prevention in communities in need of the peripheral areas of Luanda for helping people who have health problems and who do not have easy access to medical assistance and medicines, especially in this moment of COVID 19. The team is engaged in forming teams in the health pastoral of the parishes.
Charity: in these moments of emergency, calamity and forced quarantine, trash cans have become the hope or supermarket of mentally ill people and those people with low or no income. Delivery of basic food baskets has been intensified in our home. All the community is involved in attending those who knock our door. Sisters Lourdes, Conceicao and the postulants participate in the preparation and distribution of basic food baskets to those in need: older people, children from the street and those in need who live close to the zones of the Pastoral Center San Ignacio de Loyola in the Kassequel neighborhood and its surroundings.
In education: The administration of the school Ascension Nicol, which is in charged of Sisters Adriana, Judite, Vice educational principal, teachers and tutors formed a collaboration team that accompany students having as objective to supervise students’ learning from their families. To do this, they spend the day in the school preparing and distributing homework to parents, tutors and students to help them to stay at home, reviewing and consolidating contents. Through this dynamic, the school keeps giving its best to help until students can come back to face to face classes. Those who are responsible, show their satisfaction by saying “it’s worthwhile, because this is the only way to help students to practice reading and writing as well as to keep them entertained and protected from COVID 19.” In fact, one of the channels of the public television of Angola and the national radio created a special place for tv lessons and radio lessons to motivate learning among the students. The evaluation of the impact of this educative intervention shows that despite being good, it does not motivate students due to the lack of interaction between teacher and students.
One of the advantages that this experience of life and mission gives is that during lockdown we have had time for organizing school archives when transmitting the management experience to the young sisters of the educational field: Sister Maria Reais, y Conceicao Jamba Himi. This way, we can conclude that every cloud has a silver lining. Thanks to these difficulties imposed by the current world situation, we have learned new methods of living and doing Mission. God blesses all and keeps us safe.