THE VINCENTIAN SERVICES VIZ-A-VIZ THE MENACE OF COVID-19COVID-19. ON THE OCCASION OF THE VINCENTIANS ANNUAL PROVINCIAL MEETING.
Evangelization is the primary mandate of the Church. The Church has always encouraged her children to always engage and foster the course of the Good News to the whole world. COVID 19 on the other hand rang a bell that set everyone on its toes. Those in charge of the socio-economic world must now develop better strategies to continue to keep the socio-economic phase of the world. Spiritual leaders of today and tomorrow must not be left out. They are to ensure that the mandate of Christ is fulfilled in season or out of season. Others groups and individual who engage in works of charity and the likes must articulate the best possible means to continue their services irrespective of pandemics.
The Vincentians also called Lazarist, are member of Congregation of the Mission (C.M.),member of a Roman Catholic society of priests and brothers founded at Paris in 1625 by St. Vincent de Paul for the purpose of preaching missions to the poor country people and training young men in seminaries for the priesthood. To its original work the congregation has added extensive foreign missions, educational work, and chaplaincies to hospitals, prisons, and the armed forces. Following the congregation’s approval by Pope Urban VIII in 1632, Vincent took possession of the former priory of Saint-Lazare at Paris, hence the name Lazarists.
The Vincentian services.
The Vincentian services falls under Evangelization the mandate of Christ. The word “Evangelization” is traced to the Hebrew word basar which means “to announce the good news or joyful tidings.” This is linked to the tradition in Old Testament of “bringing the good news of salvation” (Isaiah 52:7; 61:1). In the New Testament the word euangelion is a translation of the Hebrew word basar. It is in this sense that Jesus used it in the Synagogue (Luke 4:18-21) generally regarded as the manifesto of Christ. Jesus’ disciples continued this mission by proclaiming redemption and salvation to the world. Thus, Evangelization is the proclamation of the gospel, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, to people who have not yet heard it. It takes place through the missionary activities of the Church which is built on the biblical theology of the Great Commission in Matt.28:19-20 to preach to the whole world.
In discharging the mandate of Christ, many missionaries took different dimensions. While some gave themselves to the mission, others provide for the mission and many others engaged in practical works of Charity. St. Vincent de Paul manifested his missionary character in practical works of charity. Thus, he came up with the following goals: Personal sanctification of members, parish administration, chaplaincies, foreign missions, pastoral ministries, social outreach, and academic and seminary education. With the passage of time; these goals were further developed into visitations; families, children and youth, older people, the homeless, Refugees and Immigrants, the sick and our environment. Through these services the Vincentians engage in works of evangelization.
The Menace of COVID-19
The Corona Virus Disease 2019 called ‘COVID-19’ is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War II. Since its emergence in Asia 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. It has been identified as a pandemic but it is much more than a health crisis. It is an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, political crisis, religious crisis and more.
Today, we have not fully recovered from the anxieties ensuing from the pandemic. Based on statistics some nations are said to be recuperating while others are revealing dwindling figures which are either due to politics or other factors. Many persons are caught up in the tension between the politics and the reality. Therefore, there is need to pay serious attention to this issue. The Church both at the universal and local levels has come up with COVID-19 policies. Many parishes and Mass centers now have COVID-19 Task Force to help manage and control the spread of this virus at their local level.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 is (was) an eye opener. We never anticipated that in the year 2019/2020 desolation shall fall upon the earth. Even though we were not all infected; we were all affected. Cities and villages; markets and farms; schools and working places; in fact the world cried. Parishes couldn’t function as usual; thus its wider implication on the financial management of staff and lives. This experience was so sad and bad that even our obligation towards charity suffered. Increased numbers of persons were out to ask for assistance; those in private sectors were in daily tears! The Vincentians had their own fair share of this struggles: Of course if the Church don’t gather there can be no means for the Church’s charitable group. The expectation of many from the Vincentians was cut off. Many who had been under their care suffered the brunt. Many Vincentians were juggled into catering for the self before others; stories abound in this regard.
However, just as if there was no hope; we had the dawn of palliatives. Government and non governmental bodies were in for charity. The palliatives became the immediate remedy as the hunger death was on the increase. On the other hand, greed took the stage as to the proper sharing and delivering of these palliatives. Corruption was further massaged and domestic violence was on the increase.
This experience may just be an episode; what happens in the future if there is another pandemic either across the line of health, or something else? What will happen if there is drought? What will happen if there is another world war? In this last episode or on-going episode our inadequacies were glaring. We were not prepared; Church and State alike.
The way forward
1. In the face of pandemic “Safety Guidelines” should be respected. Charity demands that we respect the constituted authority of the land in order to curb crisis and ensure the health and well-being of many.
2. More than ever before Vincentian leaders or Church leaders must now pay attention to other means by which the Society can survive with her basic roles outside Church’s collection. There is serious need for investment to finance Vincentian’s services. (Vincentian’s farms and the likes)
3. There is to also focus attention to the spiritual development of our clients. Its not enough to gift them food and drink we must also feed them spiritually.
4. We must also focus on establishing some of our clients; if the resources permit we can go into settling them with means for live hood.
5. COVID 19 has taught us the paramount place of the media in evangelization. The pandemic as a matter of necessity has forced many of us to adopt creative ways in reaching our congregants. Similarly, the Vincentians can also come up with Media platform for sustainable charity and discharge of services.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power and he went about doing good. No one can do any good without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization. To the disciples whom He was about to send forth He says, breathing on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”(John 20:22). The Apostles became courageous witnesses to Christ’s resurrection because they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot evangelize the world. Biblical tradition suggests that the Passion, Death, and Resurrection were not enough to get the early disciples into evangelization. In the face of this present pandemic if we must fulfill our mandate we need the Holy Spirit. The Church needs to rely and call on the Holy Spirit for strength and revival. The apostles went forth, strengthened by the Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel to the world despite the crisis of their time. We too must spruce up to continue our good works despite the crisis of today. Thus, in the face of present suffering and challenges; the missionary and charity functions of the Church must continue. “Here am I, send me” (6:8) were the words of Isaiah. Beloved, this question is still there. God is asking “Whom shall I send?”. Do not be discouraged; make yourself available for his services.