Corona virus pandemic has shaken the world and brought all the members of different faiths on their knees. We see that medical facilities of many countries have failed and the last resort is only to surrender ourselves to God. The cases of Corona are shooting up every day and we are observing national lockdown seriously.
We were in full swing of taking exams when on 14th March the Indian PM Mr. Narendra Modi declared that on 15th March, 2020 a Janta curfew (people’s curfew/ curfew by people) and the President of JDV college, Rev. Dr. Fr. Selva Ratnam SJ issued a notice following the central government communication to shut down all educational institutes or places of mass gatherings.
Let me share the impact of Covid19 on the formation community of 2nd Cycle – Pune in a nutshell.
We were almost at the close of our academic year 2019-2020. Most of the exams were over, except an exam for first/second year bachelor’s degree in theology. But third year students of theology had two more exams in their kitty i.e. theology of the New Testament and preparation for Ad- Adus (confession’s exam). This meant that third year students had some extra time to spend on campus. But due to Covid#19, we were notified that the remaining exams for the all the courses would be conducted at the beginning of new academic year, June 2020-2021. The third course students were also notified that the comprehensive exams would be scheduled on 3rd, 4th, and 5th of June as usual till further notice. So, the academics were not affected much because we were almost at the threshold of summer vacation.
As the lockdown period was declared, two of our brothers managed to go home. While, six students and Fr. Thomas, the Rector, were stranded at the Formation centre. On the other hand, Fr. Bhaskar has gone to Mumbai for his annual retreat and is stuck there now due to lockdown. However, the community formation programme was thrown into disarray as we were actually winding up the formation year and preparing to go either for summer pastoral ministry or a home break.
We have also two domestic staff who help us in the smooth functioning of our house. They come daily from their respective homes which are located a little further from the Formation House. Now, keeping in mind the health-care norms, they are asked to stay home till the lockdown is called off. So, we now have the added responsibility of cooking all our meals. We engage ourselves in all the activities of Formation like cleaning, sweeping, mopping in and outside the house, we also work in the garden, watering, trimming plants, uprooting grass etc. These are done alternatively one day in the house, following day in the garden. We all come together to share meals taking all precautionary measures by practicing social distancing. It has affected our outings, socials, walking but at the end of the day we feel consoled, looking at people around us who rent a single room where they have to do everything and can’t move freely. We are still in a privileged position that we have a big house and enough space to move around freely.
As I have mentioned earlier, as the formation year was drawing to a close, due to the heavy impact of Covid-19, most of the programs has been put on hold. Each individual member makes use of his own time to spend for his own personal benefit. Like – watching movies, reading books, learning music, attending vocational courses online. On the other hand, three 3rd year Batchelor of Theology students are preparing for their comprehensive exam which are due to take place in the first week of June. I believe this is also a time to tap into the unused talents and find out new ways of using one’s time in a way that is beneficial to oneself and the community at large.
The summer pastoral ministry which has a duration of 4-6 weeks for students remains suspended because the formation staff decided not to risk the lives of students which I think is a wise and timely decision taken in face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the students were free to depart home. As a result, two students managed to go home before this lockdown came into effect while other students could not make it as their trains and flights were cancelled. So, they are in the formation house.
The spiritual formation of a student remains a focal point in the formation centre and therefore we have the celebration of the Holy Eucharist daily. There is a bit of re-arrangement in seating to maintain social distancing in the chapel. We had all the celebrations of Holy Week in the Formation Centre itself which was strange because we were away from the faithful and yet closely following the Lord and celebrating each day of Holy Week in a reflective manner.
As of now, the situation is worsening in Mumbai and Pune. We have so far registered the highest number of Covid-19 cases. As of today, i.e. on 28th of April, these two cities have registered with 8,590 affected cases and 369 deaths. We are really worried and terrified since there are a few cases identified at 100/150 meters distance in our locality where the Formation House is situated. Our streets are barricaded and movement is severely restricted. It’s really alarming and has put us all in state of fear and worry. In the face of the alarmingly constant increase in the number of cases in Maharashtra State, India, a great concern of extending the period of lockdown in Pune looms large over the horizon as of now. In fact, life in general has been enormously disturbed. The unseen enemy of our times has put the world leaders in confusion. We pray that the situation may come under control in the days to come, so that people can move around to go to their work places and be able to do the usual chores of daily living.
3rd Year BTh – Pune