By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
Covid-19 has challenged the authority of the church in a way that has never been imagined. The superior of the Handmaids of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (HLMC) commonly known as the Carmelite Sisters, Sr. Madeline Chapisa, highlighted the need for psychosocial support in religious communities whose members have been affected by Covid-19 as the pandemic causes serious burn out and stress. This comes after the Carmelite congregation lost one sister who succumbed to Covid-19 while 25 others were battling with the virus.
Sr. Chapisa said the Ministry of Health and Child Care Provincial team had to help by supervising the situation and turned Mary Carmel Motherhouse situated at number 34 Aerodrome Road into an isolation centre. Carmelite Sisters who are nurses had to be released from mission hospitals where they work to come and assist at the isolation centre.
The congregation like many other congregations has suffered a major blow in terms of community values.
“Community values have been affected. Prayer, community meals, daily masses and other pastoral and outreach services have been disrupted by Covid-19,” stated Sr. Chapisa.
The congregation had to postpone the professions scheduled for 6 January to a later date due to Covid-19. Many planned events for the congregation have been adjusted to suit the situation, which only God knows when and how it will end.
Sr. Chapisa pointed out that the pandemic has thrown many religious communities into financial doldrums as the disaster requires huge financial support to cater for the medication of the affected members and other protective equipment and structures.
She said Covid-19 brings about many expenses in terms of provision of PPEs, a daily balanced diet, provision of equipment and chemicals for fumigation, creation of isolation places and drugs.
The Carmelite Sisters Superior proposed capacity building through training on how to manage the infected and affected Sisters.
“There is psychological destabilisation and trauma as a result of Covid-19 and it is important to capacitate our members on how to deal with the situation when it strikes. We need to inculcate the spirit of tolerance and psychosocial support. Moral support is very critical in Covid-19 situations as it gives hope to push through the odious experience,” said Sr. Chapisa.
Sr. Chapisa encouraged quick testing and taking of medication, wearing of masks all the time, private cells for the sick, sanitization, steaming, fumigation of premises and active management of the sick by professional staff.
On remedies, she suggested the use of such herbs as rosemary, moringa, blackjack, wormwood, zumbani, ginger alongside other medical recommendations.
Sr. Chapisa said Covid-19 knows no boundary and urged all people to adhere to guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
She challenged the leadership of different religious orders to come up with guidelines that help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in religious houses especially suspending some traditional practices that require the gathering of people.
The Church has been wounded by Covid-19
More and more convents and religious houses have been affected by Covid-19. One of the Little Children of Our Blessed Lady (LCBL) Sisters succumbed to the virus on Saturday, 16 January 2021 while 12 of the Sisters tested positive to the pandemic.
Speaking to Catholic Church News from the funeral parlour, the LCBL Superior General, Sr. Anita Jonga encouraged all members of her congregation to report suspected cases of Covid-19 to her office. She said her congregation was taking serious steps in curbing Covid-19 in the convents by fumigating all houses, providing medication to all communities and isolating those displaying symptoms of the virus. Sr. Jonga said they work with a medical doctor whom they have engaged to monitor the condition of the Sisters.
The LCBL Sisters have also established a dispensary at their Generalate where Sisters can collect medication while they rely more on their herbal clinic for the supply of herbal medicines.
She said: “We have come up with a dispensary at the Generalate where our sisters can get the recommended medication while we also rely on our herbal clinic which distributes herbal medicines in all our communities. All in all, we encourage each community to have a first aid kit.”
Sr. Jonga said the church has been wounded by Covid-19 and hopes that she recovers from the damage caused by this deadly pandemic.
“We hope the church recovers from the damage caused by corona virus because we have been injured spiritually,” Sr. Jonga said.