How can we define “COMmunity?”

Within the normal, of everyday life, an unusual situation appeared, which made us tremble, makes us restless. We were locked in, nervous and scattered because of the Covid. With this situation, I turned my head towards my heart; I look for the light, an answer, in something that I can understand how fear can enter our apparently stable and organized life. We were united and happy in the community; we began to schedule the tasks and works together to start the year establishing ties of connection between us in the Reina de la Paz community. Very few months passed where we were passionate (almost all of them) enjoying recess time because we shared among ourselves “moments of reinforcement” for the daily journey. At the same time, we share the laughter, comments, and community joy, always together…

In the month of August, the doctors told us that the Delta variant is already in our city and each time, we take care of our outings and keeping distance in meals and our community prayer. The day they told us that two sisters were infected, we began to change schedules and we isolate more between community hours. We were nervous until the day of the notification of the PCR results. We were 8 sisters affected by the virus.

Since then, this reality has led me to meditate on our own life. I thought about life examples in history. Why all this, why us? This question usually sounds empty and baseless, but it is the truth of the moment.

I remember the experience of confusion and doubt of various biblical characters. To begin with Zachary, the father of John the Baptist. Saint Luke tells us in Luke 1:39. We remember the fright of this faithful priest, not so ardent but patient and obedient to the Law. He expected the fullness of his priesthood in another way. God responded in a way that he made him stagger from his ability to grasp the truth of God’s desire. He did not understand the `process (of Isabel’s pregnancy) because he tried to reason and sought an answer within the common, among humans.

The situation experienced in the community in recent days is very similar to the experience of Zachary. We all asked again, how have we lived the last days? Let us try to pass through our mind an answer to this scaring situation. To understand how we have had and what was active in this virus in the middle of our community? In this way, I thought about our situation and how to get out of this circle of doubt, fear and uncertainty. For us, it’s not about the process but about surviving, will I be alive? Who are the ones who will overcome this infection? Is it possible to meet again with others after the virus? And the next day, a sister passed away who gave us: a blow to the soul! More than fear is the pain of loss.

How to support each other while being separated and isolated? These days, it is very difficult to support and to see each other. A sister awaiting funeral, another in the battle in the hospital due to the same virus and we all, each one trying to overcome the weak situation due to the virus. It is difficult to see the divine plan in these moments … the reality of life of one who is leaving, the other who was in the mood and desire to live for us, the five sisters are lucky to be infected. They were hurt by our situation in confinement and total isolation from which we were, a community of 14.

I seek an answer and refuge in silence, the generosity of so many friends, families and various people… the people who comfort and support us. They support us in an unparalleled way despite everything, in the community we were left without the ability to see or hear them, more than on the mobile phone or the screen at the time of the Eucharist or the novena. We continue, it seems to us blind and being undone by the cause the death of our sister, Pilar. I see that this situation is also very similar to the situation of many people, many families who suffer, cry, and watch over the sick and their loved ones due to this pandemic. It opens us to the truth of how and what our lives worth. It is really worth living with hope and imitating our founders and the martyrs. They teach us how to endure difficult times without losing sight of Him, who is life, truth, and the way.

Thus, it teaches us to be in solidarity with everyone in the same situation or more than what we are going through, in our community or in the country as in the world. We are all left with unanswered questions. We found comfort in prayer, feeling that God walks with us, the clarity of his presence and strength is shown in the people who support and care for us every day.

In the Gospels, Jesus invites us to see the world with the eyes of children (Matthew 18,3), to trust and not remain in tears or in uncertainty (John 11,40) but in the true hope that He is with us (Matthew 28, 20). With these thoughts, feelings and reflection, I returned to the sensitivity that I am nothing if I do not put my hope in God, who is the beginning and foundation of my own life and that of others. Nothing is worth more than living the moment, the present, to travel continuously inside to learn and know how to be surprised to find that the helm of my little boat is resting on the Captain and on his routes.

If not for faith, it would be impossible to find tranquility, comfort and joy in the midst of this “midday cloud”, which darkens the soul and makes us feel lost. Thanks to so many sisters, families, friends, students, and neighbors who give us things, food, medicine. They provided us with the necessary instruments to control: our oxygen, fever and tension states. Many are those who call us, attend, console and pray for the community. This test is one of the great teachings to value many blessings that we do not expect or deserve, see with new eyes the presence of each one and better esteem those who have and share life.

Very similar to this reality, our ancestors, founders and other peoples lived demonstrating their capacity for suffering and resistance. Encouraging each other in hard times, as well as in good times. This expression is clearly found when we look back at the life of the Mother of Jesus. She is, the best consolation, the example of her life on the circumstances that it is difficult for her to understand. She knew how to empty all her thoughts and heart before Him and abandon herself to the hand of the Mighty One. How much it costs me to inquire about that learning of Mary, of trust and abandonment in the hand of Him, who gave her own life and gave each of us a full life from the womb.

Therefore, it is true that time helps us see with calm and serenity. That nothing can be resolved in a moment of doubt and without praying for it. In fact, later, after 5, 8, 10 days, we have learned to live physically isolated but spiritually united. We learn to welcome, be calmer and accept reality with conviction and confidence that we will come out of this situation, with the expected healing. From there, we will try to improve sanitary measures in our community. We are already at the end of 21 days of isolation, waiting for the day that we can integrate into the community that awaits us upon our return. We are all looking forward to this reunion (just a few steps from this green house where the retired sisters live).

We want to share this experience, because it opens us to a new stage and an opportunity to be united even though we are separated. Therefore, let us sing with joy for this blessing and great manifestation of God among us. “The Lord has been great, great with us and we are happy” (Psalm 125).

Nini Rebollos

Baliwasan, Zamboanga City, Philippines

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