Our Social Justice in a Covid-19 Environment series is now concluded. However, it is really just a beginning. Next week we start the task of re-establishing a Parish Social Justice Network. This network will build on the incredible experience and sharing that occurred during the last three weeks.
Sr Angela Reed led a group of around 40 parishioners through a process of reflecting on our experience of COVID-19 in order to clarify where we stand now, in light of our faith, and to what we are called in the future.
Participants shared a rich array of experiences that have touched them during this time of pandemic. Some of these are listed below. Perhaps you will recognise your own experience among them. Perhaps you would like to share an experience that is not among those shared among our participants.
There has been dramatic change in education from on-site children to remote learning children. There is high anxiety and mental health issues for adults and children. There is a lot to unpack.
Another person shared that he travelled to his home country as his mother was dying. He had to balance the loss of his mother with returning to Australia before the borders shut. He went back to the seminary but the group had to be broken up due to the restrictions around physical distancing.
Grief and loss: Losing loved ones and having to cope with the grief of letting go at a funeral without the many people they would like to have there. Many friends who would normally have been part of the process were unable to join them. A death interstate and not being able to travel.
Sense of fear of the unknown: Where is all this leading? What will happen? When will we come out of it? The fear of what the future holds. People without work and income, of students doing Year 12. Fear of each other. We cannot get close to anyone.
Lack of social interaction. Unable to celebrate birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter that have passed by. People may have had a major celebration that had been organised but could no longer happen. Not able to visit loved ones in nursing homes. Speaking on the telephone is a challenge for those with dementia. If it was not a physical visit then there was no interaction.
The poor suffer the most, such as the lockdown in the public housing towers. Would Docklands have been locked down?
Feeling of gratitude and hope – those who look around and say thank goodness we are here; thank goodness we are in our situation.
This time can be a wonderful opportunity for sharing within families.
There is a strong awareness that it is happening to the whole world. And there are dire situations both here, not necessarily far from us, and around the world.
It puts a spotlight on the vulnerable. Those vulnerable were already there. Those people in public housing towers. There is an element of guilt in us that reminds us of the challenges of inequality.
Electronic contact has been wonderful and has enabled us to stay connected.
The ripple in the pond. We now have this extraordinary awareness of and connection to the world facing a disaster that is of nobody’s making but is impacting all of us in extraordinary ways.
Family situation – missing personal contact particularly with grandchildren.
Conscious of the effect of isolation on the young and particularly in mental health.
In a more positive sense – the experience of catching up with people, checking up with people and reconnecting with people, including friends overseas. There is a remarkable reconnection as well as a sense of isolation.
On the other side, we are waking up in the morning and have a little more time on our hands. An awareness of how beautiful the garden is looking, the flowers, the freshness, the air.
There are both sides to the equation both negative and positive. Although the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Some group members have found the second lockdown particularly difficult.
Prayer life has improved.
The theme of connectedness and how much people missed the personal contact – cannot give hugs in grief and loss situations.
On the other hand, with the likes of Zoom, the thrill of seeing another face has been good and telephone calls.
A reminder that we need one another – and flourish surrounded by others.
We have had to change plans. We are wonderful at making future plans! We have changed the way we connect without the possibility of meeting face to face.
How important the parish has become – meeting people on Zoom and the provision of parish Masses and opportunity in that way to be together in a virtual community each week. Even though the biggest concern is not receiving Communion, it is Communion in another way. We have been nourished by the Communion of meeting up with people in other ways.
Health workers and essential workers, including cleaners – recognition and new appreciation of those looking out for our care over this time.
Having reflected on our individual and communal experiences, Sr Angela led us through a process where we reflected on who we are as a group of parishioners in light of our faith and Catholic social teaching background. The group was then able to come up with the following statements as to where we stand in the midst of this pandemic. Here is a summary of those positions.
We stand with the vulnerable and the most disadvantaged.
We stand with health care workers, overseas students, asylum seekers and all those who are disadvantaged and marginalised.
We stand for connecting as a parish community, for understanding and acceptance of each other and for recognising our differences, our strengths, our weaknesses, and our needs.
We stand with the parish community and those beyond the parish who are vulnerable and in need.
We stand for connecting with people through prayer and spirituality, and positive energy.
We stand to create an atmosphere of trust so people can voice their vulnerabilities.
We stand for an inclusive and non-judgemental parish.
We stand for a community that provides connection, communication and education, (particularly during this time of isolation).
We stand for creative and fruitful ways of reaching out to all our neighbours.
We stand for being God’s creation, caring for our environment and being good stewards for future generations.
We stand in solidarity with others, their circumstances, challenges, and needs.
We stand for Jesus’ preferential option for the poor.
We stand for Jesus, the faithful Jew who taught us about hope and compassion.
We stand for the stranger, to reach out to all in need across our communities.
We stand for faith in Jesus and the one who walks towards us in difficult times.
Perhaps you recognise your own stance among the above. These experiences and reflections on where we stand will form the basis for the renewed social justice platform across our parishes. You are invited to stand with us and join us as we move forwards in justice across our parishes.
Our next Social Justice Network meeting will be held on Thursday, 27 August via Zoom. Contact the Parish Office if you would like to be part of this next phase.