05/01/2021, 08.00
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COVID-19 and the Carmelites in Gujarat

by Madre Maria Gemma*

The monastery in the heart of the country most affected by the coronavirus today has a story to tell. All the sisters have been infected, but “We are now on our feet, recovering”.  Despite the hardships, “We experienced God’s Providence through the overflowing generosity of people.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Tragic scenes continue to roll over India as the new wave of COVID-19 pandemic ravages its way across the land. Yet, despite the unspeakable suffering, some stories bring some sign of hope. One such story comes from the Carmelite monastery in Mumbai, home to 16 nuns. Although all of them were infected by the coronavirus, they were still able to overcome this ordeal thanks to the precious help of a doctor whom they had helped when he was a young student as well as the assistance of families who in a thousand ways made them feel close to God's Providence.

All sixteen of us, aged from 30 to 87 years, had COVID-19 during Holy Week. One was very serious and was moved to hospital. Now she is recovering and we are giving her oxygen at our Carmel Ashram and her oxygen levels are slowing improving. We are now on our feet, recovering slowly.

Jesus was so wonderful to us. So wonderful. People came to ask about our health. We experienced God’s Providence through the overflowing generosity of people. We were all treated inside our Carmel Ashram. People came. One gave us a bag of flour; many brought us cartons of fruits, milk, vegetables. People came with cooked food and meals for us. All these precious gifts were given to us, without us asking. The parish priest had told his parishioners that we were not well. The people were so generous and so loving. I wish to send a thank you note to all these families.

Dr Prashant, a radiologist, took care of our medical treatment. When he was young, in school and college, he needed a quiet place to study. We offered him a room outside the precincts of our monastery and told him to use the room for study. He would come late in the evening. I would prepare some 'nutritious milk-based drink for him as he studied the whole night, and returned home only in the early morning for a bath and breakfast and then to college. This boy grew up here and is very grateful to us Carmelite Sisters. He is a very good person. Now he is a doctor and a radiologist. Anything we need he attends to it. He took us to hospital and to the doctor in-charge. He arranged everything for us.

Dr Prashant moved one of our sisters who was in a critical condition to a private hospital and asked us to inform her family that there was not much hope for her recovery. That night we spoke to her family, informing them that the Sister was critical.

The senior Hindu doctor spoke to Dr Prashant. He said: “Tell the Sisters to do whatever prayers they wish to do. I will do my part.” We exposed the Blessed Sacrament and all 15 of us worshipped Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that night. The Sister is now back with us at the monastery, and we are giving her oxygen.

More than anything Jesus gives us an assurance that "I am there for you". COVID-19 instils fear in people. Jesus gave us the message that "I am there for you". He helped all of us, each one of us, to be on our feet again except for the one Sister who is still recovering but who will be fine. 

Jesus took care of us spiritually too. In fact, he pampered us. Even though we had COVID-19 during Holy Week, we participated in the online services of the Redemptorist Fathers in Bangalore. On Good Friday, we participated in every online service by the Redemptorists.

Our prioress gave us the sacramental communion during the spiritual communion. We also joined the singing and responses too. Jesus is wonderful.

* Sister from the cloistered Carmel Ashram, Baroda, Gujarat

Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article.

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