02/16/2021, 12.50
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Covid-19 reshapes priests’ worldview (VIDEO)

by Mathias Hariyadi

The story of two religious who survived the virus. "I have been granted my second chance to live by Gode." "I have been informed that online mass and prayer groups have always been attended by dozens of our Catholic confreres with the special intention of praying for the healing of all Covid-19 patients. And it works very well ".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Two priests from two different religious orders contracted Covid-19 and spent 2-3 weeks in intensive care wards and others in ordinary wards in the St. Carolus hospital in central Jakarta.

Their lives were spared this February - as they shared their spiritual experiences with AsiaNews - after experiencing critical days suspended between death and hospital life.

"The hospital kept me in intensive care for 19 days and another 23 days in the normal room," says Father Bambang Rudianto SJ, a Jesuit priest (photo 1) who for years was treasurer of the Indonesian Jesuit Order. He has an older brother, Father Bambang Triatmoko, also a Jesuit priest.

For Father Augustinus Handoko MSC (photo 2), current deputy head of the Indonesian Province of Missionarii Sacratissimi Cordis Iesu, the experience of being between life and death during his 35 days in the hospital was overwhelming. "I spent 14 days in intensive care, experiencing anguish and filled with anxiety," Father Handoko told AsiaNews.

The recovery from Covid-19 has reshaped the worldview of priests, based on their spiritual experiences.

A sense of despair struck Father Handoko every time the nun called for Communion service told him that more and more patients in the intensive care rooms had died. "I was really shocked and worried to learn this bad news," the priest told AsiaNews in a video-recorded message. "Then I was cornered by the critical question that put me in a very emotional situation: when would it be my turn to die."

A different story came to light with the spiritual experience of Fr. Rudianto. "I was granted a second chance to live by God - he says - days after I was hit by this fatal coronavirus".

Father Rudianto describes this as a "miracle" for him. “During my critical days in the ICU, my breathing saturation was very low, which seriously endangered my life. Then there was the proposal whether or not to use intubation", he explains.

In several cases, replacing the human ability to breathe with the "machine" ventilator does not guarantee successful recovery. The result is sometimes death.

The priest chose the natural way of breathing: no ventilator, but totally dependent on his lungs. "And I was saved by the bell (by deciding not to use the ventilator)," he says.

Moral support from "strangers"

 Despite all-out efforts by health workers, Father Rudianto said that "moral supports" from unknown "strangers" may have also produced fruitful results in the recovery process. “I was informed that online mass and prayer groups have always been attended by dozens of our Catholic confreres with the special intention of praying for the healing of all Covid-19 patients. And it works very well ”.

Now he is better, despite the fact that Covid-19 has left some "scars" in his lungs, "I still have difficulty breathing normally", says the priest.

The day he was declared cured of Covid-19, Father Rudianto said, became his special moment to thank God for giving him his second chance to live.

After periodic swab tests, the doctor told him "I could go home now". "This - he comments - is the first time in my life that the word" negative "has caused a positive feeling". It's amazing to experience the positive side of the word "negative". What still makes him very sad is the fact that dozens of other patients in the same intensive care unit have died.

Before returning home to the Jesuit residence, Father Rudianto came to visit all the nurses and doctors to say goodbye, while expressing his deep gratitude for the hard work done to save his life.

Echoing the same spirit, Father Handoko said no one would be happy to contract the coronavirus. "It's really deadly and I hope none of you will experience the severe pain of being positive with covid-19," he says.

 The concerns of a doctor

Speaking with AsiaNews from Yogyak arta, Dr. Jodi Visnu - a doctor specializing in public health at Gadjah Mada University - expressed his deep concern (as a doctor) that Covid-19 has also affected the convent, rectory and cloister.

Among the key factors that even religious residences are not immune from the spread of the virus is the lack of discipline in rigorously practicing health protocols.

"Many consecrated people have always had the self-centred perspective of thinking that their living environment is safe simply because all the residents are only from their group," said Dr. Visnu says in his pre-recorded video message.

But that's not correct. Dozens of strangers sometimes visit or go out shopping and contract the virus while meeting and talking to other people. They never think they are potential carriers of coronavirus for their religious community. "And things can happen without symptoms that indicate that they are already infected," says Visnu.

In Indonesia there have been many victims among the religious due to Covid-19. But no exact number of victims has been publicly released by Church leaders.

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