2020 has been quite a significant year for the world at large and for the Institute of St Anselm. At the beginning of March 2020 Len and Thalia returned from their visit to the UK and discussed with the participants about locking down so that we could continue the programme safely. Everyone agreed and so no one went out except for doctors and emergencies. If anything was needed Thalia and Therese, a team member, would go out to do essential shopping and bring it back. Later in discussion with the whole group it was decided to work through the Easter holidays so there would be no extra charge for participants and finish two weeks earlier. The first week, Holy Week, Len gave the retreat and the following week there was a free day before we continued with lectures.
We were very blessed that we could have all the Easter liturgy in full as we were completely in our own bubble here in Il Carmelo. There were no visitors to Il Carmelo since the middle of March and only a skeleton staff. We are very fortunate that the Institute is in a large gated compound and we can walk freely around the compound which has beautiful views of hills/mountains of Albano and Rocca di Papa.
Everyone completed the programme on 8 May and all received their appropriate Certificates and Diplomas. Although the lockdown was hard as no one could make visits to Rome etc. It made the course more powerful for each individual and built a close knit community which all of us profited from. This meant it was harder for everyone to say goodbye. A very different situation brought about by coronavirus turned out to be very enriching in its own way for everyone.
In the Autumn Programme, due to Coronavirus, the participant group shrunk to 22. Together with the residential staff we were 26. Some team members were unwell, so with Il Carmelo we arranged a Covid 19 test for all on the 14 th November. To our complete surprise on the 17th November we were told, that with 5 Il Carmelo staff who were tested 20 of us as positive and 9 negative. We had a meeting outside separating the different groups. Len communicated the test results, reassured the group that the programme would continue. They then went to their rooms to isolate. The one team member and the other 8 participants who were negative looked after the positive ones, bringing food etc. Everyone was free for the rest of the week and encouraged to rest.
A WhatsApp group was created so that the positives could keep in touch and encourage each other in what was a difficult situation for some. The negatives became creative and set up zoom for everybody and on the following Monday and Tuesday Len gave a lecture in the morning via zoom. On Wednesday Father Jim McManus CSSR gave talks morning and afternoon via zoom from Scotland on healing and the sacraments, it was just what was needed at this time. We then had our tests again on 30 November.
On 4 December we got our results – great news for most of us – that we were now negative. Two people were unlucky and came out “weakly” positive and had to stay longer in their rooms which was very tough but a sign they were on the mend. We were very blessed because nobody suffered any symptoms severe enough as to cause serious concern. God looked after us, with all the prayers that were being said for us; we were greatly supported. It takes time to make a complete recovery and rest is still needed.
This was a challenging time for everyone at the Institute but very enriching, a time of much learning bringing up many thoughts, feelings, emotions and issues for each one. Everyone continued to work on their process with plenty of areas to work on, using the skills they had learnt in the first few weeks. They each kept a journal of daily process. As a result everyone made good progress and all will complete the term on Friday 18th of December with their appropriate Certificates and Diplomas which is great news. A programme with a notable twist that turned out to be an unexpected gift to all.