March 26, 2020
Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!
Concerning the situation and life of our Korean sisters here… it has been almost one month since our government initiated urgent measures for coping with COVID-19 in South Korea. For our community, the perpetual vows Mass and missioning ceremony were restricted and simplified, meaning any guests, family members, and even the sisters who are living outside Gwangju city (where our Provincial House is located) could not participate.
According to the measures and recommendations from the government, all religious authorities decided not to have any gatherings, liturgies, and other religious and social events. In the beginning, there was some confusion and disappointment; however, we came to realize and know that this is another way to live out our identity as “citizens of the world” (Mother Seton told this to her son) through cooperating and supporting our political leaders. Because the world is a spider web, so everything is connected, and our domestic health and hygiene is not just for our family and community, it is an issue of the people of the world.
We are praying the “Prayer for Overcoming the COVID-19” written by the Association of Major Superiors of Religious Women in Korea, every day. All religious communities in Korea, men and women, are praying this now. For everyday mass, we are watching CPBC (Catholic TV broadcasting Corporation of South Korea) Daily Mass because we cannot go to church. This was not familiar, either; however, we are experiencing another mystery of encountering and staying in the presence of the Lord in the midst of uncertain times like this. To encourage the medical teams who are working as volunteers to take care of patients at the community health centers, our sisters at the Provincial house made some sandwiches and delivered them.
Keeping social distance practice creates various ways to communicate with others. For example, some diocesan priests deliver their messages or Sunday Mass through YouTube (by using their parish SNS system) to communicate with their parishioners. Priests say that we are experiencing the pain and sadness of the shepherd who cannot meet his sheep. Believers are missing the time and the freedom to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. All people are longing for the times they gathered together, laughed, and chatted together. As time passes, we can realize that this is a meaningful invitation for all of us to recall and be grateful in the moment, and realize that all the simple and not special daily lives we had were a blessing.
People are using online conferences like Zoom, Skype, or Kakatalk (a Korean app like WhatsApp) to have meetings and take classes (especially students). Across the country, many kinds of social distance practices to protect others (especially the vulnerable) have been done–campaigns such as “Pause for Two-Weeks for You and Me” “Public health education PR” and “Wearing Facial Masks.”
At one time, due to the shortage of facial masks, many people worried. To help the vulnerable to buy the masks, some sisters are practicing the movement of “yield to the vulnerable so that they can buy it.” Many citizens are still participating in this. Our efforts to help people are shown also in Ecuador. Our sisters who are working in Ecuador are making masks and distributing them to the people.
This is a tough time; however, this is the time that we can expect, wait, and embrace the grace in every circumstance of life.
We will continue to pray for all the people who are suffering from the COVID-19. You are also in our prayers.
Sister Minah Ahn, SC (Seton Hill)