STORIES OF COURAGE AND COMPASSION
A crisis always tests our character, not only as an individual, but as an individual in community and for community, and also the character of a community as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be such a crisis which acted like a catalyst. All these years, our life in community was never tested at such magnitude. Like the strength of a house is tested during an earthquake, so also the strength of community life is tested when a crisis hits it, and God gave us an opportunity through this pandemic. I am proud to say that the community at Our Lady of Bethlehem Church, Dongri, has proved that the formation of all these years helped it stand strong during this pandemic.
We had no time to plan, as the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown came all of a sudden. Yet, that didn’t cause much of a problem, as we already had systems in place. The community outreach was aimed at providing for all the needs of the people – temporal, psychological and spiritual. Our team of Community Coordinators and animators was enthusiastic and cooperative. We have a village committee system (gaon mandal) which also pitched in with relief measures. Hence, the Church, SVP and the gaon mandal coordinated their efforts to ensure that almost each and every family of the parish got a ration kit. The Centre for Social Action (CSA) helped 50 families and the families of the school children with a ration kit.
The lockdown didn’t affect us much financially, as most of our people depend upon farming for their sustenance. We have all the essentials available in and around our village. The only thing needed was coordination. The parish circulated the contact numbers of farmers among the people; thus, the farmers could sell their produce, and the people had access to fresh vegetables. The church also made available the school ground for a daily market, with a team of volunteers ensuring social distancing and safety norms. The SCC Coordinators and animators along with gaon mandal members ensured that the people of their zones didn’t venture out unnecessarily, and that no unknown outsiders entered their zones. Due to their vigilance, there has not been a single Catholic COVID positive case till the date of filing this report.
Another important step was to encourage people to build up their immunity system. The villagers by default have a strong immunity system. To further aid this, the Church distributed Arsenicum Album-30 tablets recommended by the Health Ministry. Through our online Masses, we are in touch with people every day, and we use this platform to make people aware of how they should protect themselves from this pandemic.
At the end of the day, we think that God has led us to form and strengthen our SCCs for days like these. May God continue to protect us!
Fr Ajit Tellis Parish Priest Our Lady of Bethlehem, Dongri