Walking with Covid-19 in Toronto

Our world is changing so quickly from day to day, even hour to hour. There just seems to be plenty of bad news out there! It is likely going to worsen but we are also being awakened to some signs of hope at this time. We decided to have a more formal conversation around how each one of us is living the reality of the quarantine in response to the Coronavirus. We divided our meeting into two moments: how each one of us is living this reality and how together as a community we can continue to respond to the reality.

Highlights were focused on community life, ministry and concern for our families and for the world. April 07 marks DAY 26 of our communal quarantine for those confreres residing at the community house in High Park. One confrere shared that this Lenten period is also the time in which we travel with Jesus. He too was in quarantine for 40 days, so to speak.

In the course of the conversation, each of us shared that it is important to understand the reality that we are living, both personal, communal, social and ecclesial. We all agreed that it is important to keep ourselves informed with official information yet, recognizing that information overload is not healthy. We also noted that it is important to remember that we are not all the same and we do not respond to stressful situations in the same way. Each confrere expressed gratitude for the support he has received from the other members of the community.

Although we are one community, confreres reside in two community residences: the rectory of Thomas More and the High Park community residence. Sadness was expressed that we do not have the capacity to live this moment together as each community entered into the quarantine at different moments. We reaffirmed that it is important for us as Dehonians to pray together every morning, celebrate Eucharist daily and to pray in the evening together. Each community has found a way to do so according to their capacity. Sharing meals together, watching Jeopardy, playing “uno”, going for walks while social distancing, and watching the 10pm evening news together but even more importantly, seeing/experiencing the special care that each one of us offers to the other has certainly strengthened our bonds of Dehonian fraternity and community. We are also very conscious that thus far, during these 26 days, both Petrus and Will have been full-time students online. Both Will and Petrus expressed gratitude for the support they have received.

Ministry has been a challenge, but we are learning new ways to be present to those with whom we minister and who minister to us. Yuliwan is gathering with members of the UKI in small groups to pray together online. Peter continues to reach out to all of the refugees and volunteers connected with the ministry of Becoming Neighbours. Antonio celebrated Eucharist online with members of the Brazilian community. Aegi is offering Holy Week daily reflections online for the parishioners of Thomas More and Our Lady of Rosary. Jim will preside at an online Holy Thursday Para liturgy for those who travelled with him on the February pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Each of us expressed concern for members of our families and how we can be supportive of them as they too live this reality. Each one of us has reconnected with people living in isolation or with people with whom we have not had contact for a long time. We can be bombarded with statistics, both those who are positive with COVID-19 but the human face of this disease has hit our community very close to home. Two members of the UKI community on one of the cruise ships tested positive and we have just become aware that a family who we know very well from St. Joan of Arc parish have also tested positive. These are people that we know, whose lives have intersected with ours and ours with them.

Yet, signs of HOPE continue to show up in the most unexpected ways and moments. One confrere pointed out that the air is more clear because so few are driving vehicles. All over the country, individuals are risking their lives to help others, as we have seen with the healthcare workers, supermarket employees and other front-line workers. We have been overwhelmed with expressions of support and the offers of help at this time. Not only have individual people offered to do grocery shopping for us, but what has also been particularly overwhelming is the generosity of the members of the UKI who continue to bring donations of food to us. Our Canadian political leaders are shining examples at this time as what it means to lead with honesty interwoven with compassion. One confrere talked about how he was amazed with how his parents/grandparents came through the Great Depression. The rest of the confreres commented about how it is all beginning to make sense to us as to why Fr. George Coppens lived with a great appreciation for frugality and was an incredibly practical man.

Together we reaffirmed the following commitments to each other:
– Practicing personal hygiene
– Following protocols of health officials (e.g. sneezing/coughing into elbows, washing of hands consistently, etc.)
– Staying home
– Practicing social/physical distancing at all times
– Cleaning areas that are frequently touched (kitchen counters, doorknobs, faucets, etc.)
– Continuing to cook on designated night each week
– Continuing to enter into and celebrate the liturgical seasons
– Being more intentional in our solidarity with the more vulnerable
– Using the food that is present and more creatively using leftovers with simplicity being our guide
– Continuing to enjoy each other’s company, fraternity and being able to laugh at ourselves and our own idiosyncrasies

Ron Rolheiser, OMI, reminds us that “The coronavirus has put us all, in effect, on a conscripted sabbatical … the danger is that we will put our lives on hold as we go through this extraordinary time and will just endure rather than let ourselves be graced by what lies within this uninvited season” (LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID 19).

We concluded our time together praying: “Look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to health care workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your holy name.”


Aegi, Antonio, Jim, Martin, Peter, Petrus, Will and Yuliwan

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