Embers in the Dark: Images of Hope in a Change of Eras
May 21, 2020 —The sterling efforts of the Patna Jesuits in responding to the situation arising out of the country-wide lock-down in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis are an image of hope in the midst of several resistances to outreach to the least, the last, and the lost (Matthew 25).
Right from lockdown 1.0, beginning with Patna, all the Jesuit communities in the dioceses of Patna, Buxar, Bettiah, and Muzaffarpur have contributed their mite for the relief and support of marginalized groups through the distribution of pre-cooked meals and dry rations.
The effort to keep the embers burning, now that migrant laborers from Bihar have returned, continues. Our schools are being requisitioned as quarantine centers by the local administration in remote areas. To this we have readily offered our support and space.
Our contribution, along with those collaborators and like-minded groups, is a process of reconciliation of humanity in a world broken by COVID-19. It is a drop in the ocean considering the magnitude of the situation.
Nonetheless, I believe, that this small drop makes a huge difference to those thirsting for consolation. We are grateful to the good shepherd for having allowed us a share in these Paschal mysteries, beginning with lock-down 1.0, leading us to bring the hope of the Resurrection during the Easter Season of lock-down 2.0 and 3.0.
— Donald Miranda, SJ
Provincial, Patna Jesuit Province
Patna Jesuit Province Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
The Covid-19 crisis has brought in multiple problems. Apart from fighting against the virus that is killing lives, the situation has forced us to:
• Fight Against Hunger
“Even if we are saved from Corona virus, we will die of Hunger”
“I haven’t eaten anything for three days”.
“United, We Shall Overcome”
Joining the world and the nation in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, the Patna Jesuits have taken proactive initiatives to help the poor and the most vulnerable people to protect themselves and to control the transmission of the virus. As of April 30, we have provided 7500 masks, and more than 16,000 Soaps were given along with ration kits. Two of our schools, St. Xavier’s School, Gaunaha inWest Champaran District, and Raj Rajeshwar School, Barbigha, Sheikhpura District, have been converted to quarantine centers by the government.
Stories from the Field
In the first week of the lockdown, we were not doing anything much other than taking stock of the situation in the villages. On April 3, Fr. Juno, SJ, Director, Manthan, visited a village (Murgiya Chak) to learn about the situation. In my interaction, one old woman told me, “We may be saved from corona virus, but we will die of starvation for sure.” Another woman told me, “I have not eaten anything for the last three days.” These two voices made me think and take steps to reach out to the needy as soon as possible. Then we came in touch with the Indian railways catering department and started distributing cooked food to people in different villages. I also requested our friends, well-wishers and the province to help us to respond to the situation. All of them helped us generously. My deepest experience during the lock down is that that “our hearts are opened”
to the reality and to the least and the last.
— Fr. Juno Sebastian, SJ, Dir, Manthan
Jeevan Sangham, Bodhgaya: We have found that poverty is hidden in villages. Outwardly, certain houses may suggest that they are not poor. Households which depended on income from migration, found themselves in a difficult situation. The sudden fall in their income caused many hardships in their life. Such was the case that we encountered in Belaganj. The young man who migrated to Delhi for work used to send money home for his wife and three children. For the last two months, he could not send money. He is held up in Delhi. The family found it difficult to manage. A few days, they managed with borrowing rice from neighbors. This household does not have ration card either. As a result, the household experienced many hardships. The mother found it difficult to feed her children. In desperation, she called up the help line number of labor commissioner who contacted us in turn to help this family. This experience helped us to encounter poverty hidden in many households which are not so easily visible to naked eye. Even the neighbors do not have patience to know the actual situation of the one living next door.
— Fr. Anto Joseph, SJ
Community Leader, JS, Bodhgaya & Dir, BDVS, Patna
“United we overcome” – Special thanks to our collaborators
The COVID-19 crisis has once again proved that unity is strength. This level of reach out was and is possible only by networking and collaborating.
We extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to all generous friends, families, benefactors across religions–Buddhists, Muslims, etc., donor agencies, government officials, village leaders, police personnel, media friends, Our staff, students, alumni, animators, SHGs, volunteers, women religious, diocesan bodies, NGOs, and all our Jesuit institutions and houses.
CLICK HERE to read Fr. Miranda's full report in pdf format