During the COVID-19 crisis, you have been supporting mission communities around the world through prayers and donations. In a recent online mission animation, we joined Fr Basil Rohan, National Director of Missio in Sri Lanka and Fr Francis Makuba MHM, a Mill Hill Missionary and parish priest in Nairobi, Kenya, to hear their view of how the pandemic is affecting their societies. They explained how, with the money raised by Missio, they are supporting their communities.
Over 60 Missio supporters and volunteers came together for an online update on the current work Missio is carrying out around the world. The event truly brought home to us in England and Wales how serious the situation is for our missionary family, and inspired us to continue our prayers and support.
In his introductory remarks, Missio’s National Director in England and Wales, Fr Anthony Chantry, said:
‘A lot of people in many countries live day-to-day. They have no savings & receive little social help. When everything is in lockdown, families go hungry. There is more suffering from the lockdown, than the virus itself.’
‘We’ve raised over £300,000 now, which is a wonderful amount. So, all of you who are involved with that: thank you.
He went on to explain:
‘Missio is built on two foundations. One is prayer, and one is giving – charity. They’re equally important. Prayer unites us with God and with each other. It has its own energy… and of course charity gives more direct or material help. We try to do both, but when we can’t do the charity bit, we do the prayer, because it’s equally important.’
You can watch Fr Tony’s opening remarks below:
COVID-19 in Sri Lanka
Fr Basil then updated participants on the situation in Sri Lanka. He thanked Missio donors and volunteers for their efforts. He said:
‘COVID-19… is affecting the whole world… The three and a half months when the country was locked down… affected us very badly, more than the virus, because most of our Sri Lankan people are just getting a day-to-day salary.’
He explained that total lockdown had been lifted in the past 10 days, but:
‘Very unfortunately last evening we found 194 new positive [cases]. So there is a question of whether they will lock down again.’
During the long initial lockdown, many Priests and Sisters in Sri Lanka were unable to come out at all. And with no Masses, many have lost their income, since they mainly live from the offerings of their parishes. He thanked the Missio family for all its support, which has enabled the Missio team in Sri Lanka to buy dry rations for around 60 priests, over 100 Sisters & over 350 lay leaders and their families. He shared:
‘With your sacrifices, your hard work, with the donations which you collected from the people, [you] support our people, our Priests and our Religious. Thank you very much. You are doing an excellent job in the name of God.’
You can watch Fr Basil’s talk below.
How the virus has affected Kenya
Fr Francis reported on his parish in Nairobi and Kenya in general. He said:
‘Here in Kenya we have been in lockdown from the beginning of April… By locking the two main entry points and two main cities, Mombasa and Nairobi, the country was effectively locked down.’
He shared that in his parish of Shauri Moyo many families have suffered. Being next to a main industrial area in Nairobi, most families depend on that area for work, food and clothing. He explained that seven out of 10 Kenyans have lost their jobs and schools have closed. Many families are unable to work or eat. This has contributed to a rise in domestic violence. Fr Francis shared that many people in his parish have not been able to pay their rent for over three months. And although lockdown has been lifted, the fear is it will be reintroduced and that people will suffer all over again. He said:
‘The Lockdown was quite suffocating for a number of people.’
Fr Francis’ Parish received around 2,000 Euros from the Missio office. He said:
‘We received at least a list of 250 families who needed urgent help… we used the funds to get dry cereals – rice, sugar, flour… We managed to get to at least 150 families in a very simple way.
‘Everybody went away with a smile on their face. And we have received many many messages saying: “That was very great. You may think it was very little but we can tell you, you have made us [feel] like humans.”‘
Watch Fr Francis’ remarks below:
Reflecting on the stories
The Mission Animation gave the Missio community a space to come together in prayer and to share their own concerns, hopes and practical questions and suggestions. After the talks from the three priests, Participants met virtually in smaller groups to reflect on what they had heard from Fr Basil & Fr Francis. Mary, a participant and Missio Volunteer said:
‘What strength our sisters and brothers must have! And see how they share what little they have. It makes us humble.’
After the breakout meetings, participants came back together to ask questions and reflect. One Local Secretary asked how both Fr Basil & Fr Francis were looking after themselves as well as those in their communities. Both Priests welcomed the opportunity to consider how they have been coping, with Fr Basil reflecting that ‘knowing that we are supported in prayer and thought’ from Missio was of great comfort to him. Fr Francis reflected on the importance of community, both globally and in his own parish.
Connecting with our overseas family
Meeting with Fr Basil and Fr Francis online in this way truly helped us to connect with the global Missio family. Seeing the faces and hearing the stories directly from our sisters and brothers in need is vital for informing our prayers and giving. As one participant, Angela, reflected:
‘Hearing and seeing Fr Basil & Fr Francis live has helped me feel even more connected to Missio and those who we are supporting overseas.’
Every penny, pound and prayer you share with Missio helps Priests like Fr Francis and Fr Basil reach out to the people around them in desperate need. You are helping and supporting Missionaries today, and building a strong and vibrant Church for tomorrow. Thank you.