We all make strategic plans but the degree to which we execute them always remain obscure until the execution finally takes place. At the start of 2019, we had great plans yet none of us could say with exactitude the degree to which such plans would materialize. Some of us thought we were experts in planning and executing projects without God. Ironically, while we were busy planning, God was probably having a good laugh at us.
The Covid 19 pandemic hit mankind like a thunderbolt. It did not only shatter our plans but instilled a lot of fear, panic and uncertainty in us about the future. Many wondered and questioned the place of God in the midst of all the happenings. Others, especially those who lost jobs and loved ones cursed God for His deafening silence and indifference. Yet, others saw this as an opportunity to rethink, re-evaluate their life styles and re-strategize. In this connection, Robert Cardinal Sarah exhorts us to understand God’s silence, which has no definitive meaning. According to him, “God keeps quiet for a few hours while leaving the world in our hands. But the day will come when He will ‘make all things new’(Rev 21:5. The Covid 19 Pandemic is making it abundantly clear that there is a time for everything as evident in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There is a time to be sick and a time to be well, a time to plan and a time to execute. If humanity has learnt any lesson from the current pandemic at all, then it is the need to rediscover and acknowledge God as the Creator, Alpha and Omega and to completely surrender and trust in Him .
There is always a reason for every happening. Everything God permits has a meaning. Hence, ” God can draw the greatest good from evil itself”. (The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise) Devastating as this experience has been for all of us, it has been for the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis, an opportunity to explore more ways of making the charism of Venerable Maria Hueber our foundress more alive. Like most religious congregations and families, the TSSF, have known and experienced the pain, trauma, fear and uncertainty caused by the noble coronavirus. On the flip side of the coin, the experience has made us to start re-imagining new ways of making our charism of solidarity with the vulnerable and those at the fringes of society more alive. Not the kind of solidarity that delights in acts of generosity but as Pope Francis says in Fratelli Tutti, the kind of solidarity which is more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. The kind of solidarity which compels us “to think and act in terms of community” In the face of the pandemic, fraternal life has become more meaningful, appreciated and cherished. Touched by the vulnerability and sufferings of the people we minister to in various parts of the world like Austria, Italy, Bolivia, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, the TSSF, are using this opportunity to make their charism more alive. The pandemic and the war in Cameroon have made us to realize more than ever that,“ No one can be saved alone; we can only be saved together.” ( Pope Francis) It is against this backdrop that with the financial assistance received from UISG , the FSPA and the OSF of Milwaukee, the TSSF were able to demonstrate their companionship in franciscan solidarity in a more profound and practical way by providing medical care to the vulnerable people who contracted the virus. Thus, demonstrating that fraternal solidarity which Pope Francis refers to in Fratelli Tutti when he says: “to care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves. Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home.” In the face of the pandemic, socio-political tensions, wars and other natural disasters like those we are experiencing all over the globe, Pope Francis in his encyclical on Fraternity and Social Friendship admonishes usto revive the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all.
(SR. MARCELINE YENMULEH, TSSF)