By Ottrisha Carter
Over the last couple of weeks, many people have been asking themselves: ‘Where is God in all of this?’. This burning question was answered in the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation’s (VLCFF) newest e-seminar Hope in Times of Crisis. VLCFF is an internet distance-learning programme to support catechist and adult faith formation in the Church.
The e-seminar started on April 5 and ended April 26. Catholics from countries all around the world took the opportunity to participate in this e-seminar as they searched for God and a renewal of their faith during this coronavirus pandemic.
This e-seminar gave participants the chance to share their struggles and the challenges they were facing on a daily basis as they tried to come to terms with this new life in isolation. Having access to well-trained facilitators who journeyed with the participants, more or less heightened their interest and willingness to openly discuss the negative emotions they were experiencing. Being able to bring comfort and consolation to each other also helped the participants to better understand why they need people in their lives to help them as they continue their individual journeys with the Lord.
Topics such as discrimination, inequality, forgiveness, painful memories among others were discussed in detail, giving the participants the chance to freely let go of all the emotional pain they were carrying. Trust was built among the participants and their facilitator so this three-week journey was more than just an e-seminar but a place where everyone felt comfortable to express themselves.
Participants were also exposed to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity which helped them to recognise Jesus’ presence during this period of darkness, sadness, grief and pain. They came to realise that their faith was similar to the disciples’ faith in the Bible passage Matthew 8:23-27, when Jesus was asleep on the boat at sea, during the storm. Many participants agreed that the disciples’ words: “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” seemed so familiar as they continue to plead with the Lord to deliver our world from this coronavirus pandemic. Man’s efforts have all failed and it’s clear that God is the only one who can heal, save and free us from this virus which is negatively affecting the entire world. Our hope is in the Lord. It’s important that we place our faith, trust and hope in the Lord.
This coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of damage to our daily lives and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have lost their lives but we also cannot ignore the positive things that have happened over the last few months.
Participants noted that there seemed to be an increase in healthy relationships since many of them highlighted the ways in which people were really trying to be their brother’s keeper during these trying times. Not being able to gather as community in our churches also helped them to appreciate the extents to which their priests in for example: America and Italy are reaching out to their parishioners and not only the flock entrusted to their care but the Catholics in the wider society and the world in general.
It’s really amazing to see how many American and Italian priests are putting their lives at risk and losing their lives as they choose to follow Jesus’ footsteps, by laying down their lives for others., Fr Don Guiseppe Berardelli, for example, from Bergamo, an Italian city, had the coronavirus but gave up his ventilator for a young patient. Fr Guiseppe passed away but has shown us what true agape love means. Examples like his have more or less answered our burning question. God is with us, He has not abandoned us. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible”.