We invite Dehonians, co-workers and other collaborators in SCJ ministry to share their personal reflections regarding the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in their lives and their communities. The following is from Steve Koepke, Director of Donor Relations for Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Mississippi.
Life for me has become almost surreal. So much seems to have changed, to have been taken away. I rarely now get to enjoy the company of friends and co-workers. Activities that were so much a part of my daily life – going to Mass, going to the Y, going to a restaurant, traveling for work – have now been lost. As a friend of mine remarked, “I never dreamed I’d have to give up so much for Lent!”
Still, I count myself among the very lucky ones. I have my health and get to come in to the office (for now anyway) and that gives my life a somewhat normal rhythm. More importantly, I feel my job here at Sacred Heart Southern Missions affords me the opportunity to be part of the solution to issues facing our country at the moment. As we struggle to keep our Social Service offices open we need the resources to pay people, to buy and move food around to our various pantries, to provide folks with hope. I recently heard where one of the largest casinos down in Tunica has closed for a month. They have 3,200 employees, mostly part time. During the shutdown they’re keeping on 150. Imagine the strain that puts on the pocketbook? I’m sure we are about to see people who have never set foot in a food pantry, nor ever expected to, in their lives.
As always, our donors remain a source of inspiration to me. After discussing the situation with one man he emailed me the next day saying he was sending $10,000 as a gift to support our efforts to provide food. Many others have also been responsive to our efforts to help those in need. It is truly humbling.
Perhaps there is some good will come of this. More than one person has remarked to me that it may be no accident that this crisis is happening during Lent, a time when we are called to return to God and realize His importance in our lives. I hate this virus and what it has done to people and our world. If it strengthens our faith and reminds us of our need for prayer perhaps some good may come of it.