Four FCJ sisters write from Australia, Canada, England and Indonesia in this post telling us how they have creatively adapted their ministry during COVID times.
Sr Clare, fcJ, Yogyakarta (Indonesia): Working from Home to Home Across 7,500 Miles
The lockdown came into place as I was staying with my family in Marske by the Sea, a friendly village in the North East of England. Like hundreds of millions of others around the world I found myself ‘working from home’. As I am currently unable to return to my place of mission in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, there is the added complication for me of ‘working’ in two places approximately 7,500 miles apart in distance and six hours apart in time.
As a volunteer in my local parish I have a list of people I contact each week. My sister, Josie, and I share the list. We check how people are, ask if they need anything and follow up any requests. We visit and shop for some people who are being ‘shielded’, that is who are being protected from COVID-19 by staying at home. This includes some members of my own family. My sister is also sewing ‘scrubs’, that is uniforms, for medical personnel. I help with the washing and ironing. My sister spends part of each day completing work as a director of several schools. Meanwhile, when the time is right I make several calls a day to Indonesia, thanks to social media. I take classes, give spiritual direction and attend meetings. It is remarkable how the internet can bring us so close. When there is time I write reports and pieces for the FCJ Sisters Blog. I haven’t had time to feel ‘locked in’ or bored. I am grateful that we are discovering new ways of being of service.
Sr Catherine, fcJ, Birkenhead community (UK)
When lockdown started I knew I needed something to occupy me. I quickly ordered wool online, which was hard to get, as many others thought the same. I decided to do simple things that wouldn’t need too much concentration: blankets and hats for premature babies. These apparently are in great need. The little hats only take about an hour each and I can alter the pattern a few times. The blankets aren’t too big and I again do a simple pattern. The photo shows the ones done so far. Although I enjoy making them and it keeps my hands occupied I hope the lockdown doesn’t go on too long. To add another dimension I join a Virtual Crafternoon on Zoom on a Monday afternoon from FCJ Centre St Hugh’s with FCJ’s and friends. All good fun!!
NB: Sr Catherine also recorded a YouTube video, a Pause for Reflection for her parish, St Joseph’s at Birkenhead, on 11 May, Monday after the Good Shepherd Sunday.
Sr Agnes, fcJ Sacred Heart Convent, Calgary (Canada)
During lockdown I have attended some online courses on Nonviolent Communication and on dreams, in addition to continue attending the Spiritual Direction Training Program at FCJ Christian Life Centre. I have facilitated a faith sharing gathering, including leadership training and a dream workshop for the Indonesian Catholic community in Calgary via zoom. And with what I learned I have facilitated a four-session Dream Workshop on Zoom for my friends, including some FCJ Companions in Mission (including CIM) who live in Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia and Canada.
All have been life-giving activities for all of us as we choose to continue connecting with each other and nourishing our souls.
Sr Mary, Kew (Australia)
I am involved in a Telelink which is called a Quality Living Group. Seven people from across Australia connect on the phone to talk about issues related to loss of sight. Run by Vision Australia, this group is organised by a staff member and supported by a peer volunteer (in this case, me, a person with quite low vision). This week, we focused on recreation and dining. We shared tips and experiences of changes in our recreation habits as a result of sight loss, and how to manage to access menus. These groups don’t need face-to-face contact, and so the corona virus has not impacted on this activity.
Our Christian Life Community group is meeting by Zoom. One of our members is able to do the technological preparation, and we just sign in. Eight of us meet, and we really appreciate the opportunity to continue to contact each other. Our craft group is meeting by Zoom on the phone. This is another Vision Australia initiative. I put my phone on Speaker and do my crocheting as we chat together.
I have made and received many phone calls, with all of us being very aware of supporting each other as we self-isolate in our homes. This too will pass! May we grasp the opportunities which are opening before us.
Sr Michelle, fcJ Edmonton (Canada)
I am a Teacher/Chaplain at a junior high school in Edmonton, Alberta. At the end of March 2020, all students in our province were told to stop going to school, while teachers continued to report to work at their job sites. A few days after that, staff were also sent home. Since that time, teachers have been asked to teach from home virtually. After a week spent familiarizing ourselves with some of the many options available for virtual teaching, we began this new form of instruction. It has been a huge learning experience for students and teachers.
The biggest changes in my experience of teaching right now are the limited amounts that I actually “see” my students and the amount of sitting I have to do. Even when we have class meetings online, most students prefer not to show their faces to their class, so generally I am teaching to a sea of names on a dark screen rather than faces. And we do a lot of sitting now, because sitting is involved in nearly every aspect of teaching online.
However, I try to remember how we are among the privileged few: I continue to have meaningful work at a time when many people have lost their jobs and we continue to give students access to education in a world where this doesn’t happen for everyone. And some contact with students is better than none! We are all looking forward to returning to school, which the government is telling us may happen in September.
Read other contributions by Michelle fcJ on our website or in the Weaving One Heart: Contemporary FCJ Voices blog. Michelle has produced videos for her religion class available from our Resources page or from her YouTube channel.