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 Fr. John Czyzynski, SCJ. He is retired, and a member of the Sacred Heart Community at SHML.
I remember visiting Poland when it was still under Communist rule and my fellow SCJs told me that if I was living there with them I would have to learn new ways of living. Something like that is going on in my life as we deal with the COVID-19 virus. I consider myself to be a budding hypochondriac. If I get a slight cough or a headache, I start to think I have lung cancer or I am developing a brain tumor. So the present situation is especially troublesome for me. Changes in the way I am feeling terrify me. God bless our resident Florence Nightingale (Mary Balistreri, Province Director of Healthcare Services). It is a great comfort for me to be able to talk with her and get solid medical advice.
I have had to change one of my usual behaviors. When I am washing up and shaving, etc. as I prepare to go down for morning prayer, I like to listen to NPR [National Public Radio]. I stopped doing that because the news depresses me and raises my anxiety levels. So now I check in with NPR on the hour for five or six minutes, get the headlines and weather and then turn off my radio and listen to music. That helps me.
I have been touched by fellow SCJs and family and friends checking in with me. I am 82 years old and so that puts me in the vulnerable category. I feel the loving support of those around me and those calling or texting or sending emails. The staff here at SHML are so kind and helpful. They know we need things and so they go out and shop for us. Fr. Guy Blair was telling us he tried to get to a store to get things he needed and he couldn’t get inside. I don’t have to worry about that. I have always felt the support we seniors get in our community and it is especially noticed at a time like this. My prayers and gratitude are with those in our provincial administration and finance offices who carry heavy burdens in their care for us.
In-person ministry is curtailed, so adjustments need to be made. I checked if we could hear confessions over the phone. I knew that ordinarily you can’t, but I thought exceptions might be made because of the social distancing we are keeping, but I was told the old rule still holds. I am offering spiritual direction over the phone. I much prefer person to person, but it’s okay.
I find that praying is a great comfort for me. I have always valued praying the office because it is the prayer of Jesus and all the baptized asking God to care for our world. I am so conscious of that now. I am grateful for the prayers Fr. Jack Kurps made available to us and his suggestion that we pause at 11:45 wherever we are and share in the prayer. It might not be the official liturgical prayer of the Church, but we are united in seeking God’s help.
I am glad I live where I live because I can go outside and not be exposed to running into others who might be too close to me. I don’t want to pick up the virus or be responsible for someone else getting it.
As I mentioned, I am in the vulnerable age group. I am very conscious of that. I mentioned that I have started listening to music in the morning as I get ready for the day. The first day I tried that, the only CD in my room at the time was one by Susan Boyle and she was singing Christmas songs. It was very providential. It reminded me that God is always “Emmanuel” (God with us). There are all kinds of predictions coming out and they sound dire. I don’t know what is going to happen. None of us does. But whatever it is, God is and will be Emmanuel. God is with us and hanging onto us and we need to hang onto God and hang onto one another, continue being a support to one another, but in different ways so that we can observe the distancing that will keep us and the one’s we love safe.
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