SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE
Dr Jeanette Pinto
MIGRANTS - THE IMPACT AND THEIR SEESAW LIVES
Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ
THE ELDERLY - THEIR MENTAL STRUGGLE
MEDICS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
REACH OUT TO THE SICK
Sr. Dr Beena Madhavath UMI
This issue of the Jeevutsav newsletter in September 2020 focuses on the theme of various life issues in this global pandemic, which has become a household word. It has in many ways affected various sections of society and general lifestyle in our country as in all over the world. The Archdiocese of Bombay headed by His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, has with his team of clergy faced the challenges of outreach to the less fortunate and other victims in the diocese thus living the Gospel of Life. Much has been done by the Social Action Group, St. Vincent de Paul, various Associations, the Laity, and our communities in the various parishes to bring solace and essentials to the needy and marginalized.
The theme of this newsletter is: Life issues during Covid times. This issue has testimonies and other articles which prove that Faith, Empathy and Love favour the brave. In keeping with this theme, here I wish to reproduce excerpts - of a letter from Pope Francis to Popular Movements dated April 12, 2020, addressed:
TO AN INVISIBLE ARMY
“Now in the midst of this pandemic, I think of you in a special way and wish to express my closeness to you. In these days of great anxiety and hardship, many have used warlike metaphors to refer to the pandemic, we are experiencing. If the struggle against COVID-19 is a war, then you are truly an invisible army, fighting in the most dangerous trenches; an army whose only weapons are solidarity, hope and community spirit, all revitalizing at a time when no one can save themselves alone.
I know that you nearly never receive the recognition that you deserve, because you are truly invisible to the system……You often feel rage and powerlessness at the sight of the persistent inequalities and when any excuse at all is sufficient for maintaining those privileges. Nevertheless, you do not resign yourselves to complaining; you roll up your sleeves and keep working for your families, your communities, and the common good. Your resilience helps me, challenges me, and teaches me a great deal. I think of all the people, especially women who multiply loaves of bread in soup kitchens: two onions and a package of rice make up a delicious stew for hundreds of children. I think of the sick and the elderly. They never appear in the news, nor do small farmers and their families who work hard to produce healthy food without destroying nature, without hoarding, without exploiting people’s needs.
I want you to know that our Heavenly Father watches over you, values you, appreciates you, and supports you in your commitment. How difficult it is to stay at home for those who live in tiny, ramshackle dwellings, or for the homeless! How difficult it is for migrants, and those in rehabilitation from an addiction. You are there helping them to make things less difficult, less painful. I congratulate and thank you with all my heart.
I know that you been excluded from the benefits of globalization……The ills that afflict everyone hit you twice as hard. Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time…and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable. This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out, in order to concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human, of no worker without rights.
Moreover, I urge you to reflect on “life after the pandemic” for while this storm shall pass, its grave consequences are already being felt. You are not helpless. You have the culture, the method, and most of all the wisdom that are kneaded with the leaven of feeling the suffering of others as your own. I want all of us to think about the project of integral human development that we long for and that is based on the central role and initiative of the people in all their diversity, as well as on universal access to those three T’s that you defend: Trabajo (work), Techo (housing) and Tierra (land and food)”
The above letter of Pope Francis sparks off thoughts and ideas for reflection of life after the pandemic. Firstly let’s consider how we in India should focus on making globalization decisively change its form. Globalization will not go away, but it can and must be better managed. With governments entangled in their own political struggles, social action groups must harness technology for the common good, and reshape their institutions. The digital age is marching towards newer technologies; it has already reshaped us into an E-World, with e-banking, e-education, e-health and it would not be wrong to say that Covid-19 is the world’s first e-epidemic/pandemic. Perhaps it may give rise to a more Equal world.
The Church in Mumbai is challenged in this new scenario to make changes and draw up programmes, which it can collaborate with local secular groups and institutions that have the Reach out to Others objective. Make the 3 T’s that the Pope speaks of namely work, shelter and food a reality for all. Secondly, Jesus came not just for the Jews but for ALL and so it’s time to consider gradual inclusion of other communities into our fold. The important UN Concept of ‘leaving no one behind’ should be the focus in all we do. Thirdly we need to think out of the box initiatives to touch the lives of the marginalized, uplift the downtrodden and make a difference in society; only then will a new world order become a reality. That perhaps is the real message; we can draw from his letter
Let us remember that no region will be safe unless all are safe.
Be Careful…Be safe…Be strong. May Jesus keep you all in a loving embrace
Dr Jeanette is an Educator, the former Director and presently member of the Archdiocesan Human Life Committee.
Mumbai is such a cosmopolitan city that it does not strike us that so many residents and workers are actually from other parts of the State and even more from other States. During riots or threats of riots in the past, we did observe large numbers trying to leave the city by every route. One should have imagined the impact of a national lockdown on these out-of-state workers: when all economic activity was brought to a standstill, no payment was offered (especially to large numbers of daily wagers) and even accommodation was denied. They were left to fend for themselves on the streets, with their immediate family members. With little or no savings to see them through, it then became a desperate, absolutely unreasonable, dash for home on foot – never mind the distances. Tragedy was inevitable. Life in India is cheap and dispensable! But hope is eternal in the human heart.
Isn’t it clear that Mumbai’s industry and commerce do not care for the life-issues of its external workers, except to profit from cheap labour? No job security, no retirement benefits, no emergency provisions: merely the daily or monthly wages of the non-formal economy, which is estimated to be at least 60% of Mumbai’s workers. This was the 60% that were unfortunate prey to the National Lockdown, declared and enforced within a few hours, without thought or concern for human lives.
It is consoling that individuals and organizations came forward, early in this period, to provide food on the streets for these families and soon long lines formed to avail of this compassion in action (no social distancing, of course). Manna on Weels and other ventures sprouted throughout the city. Crowd funding financed the food but the volunteers who dared the virus, made it possible to feed such large numbers. People of all faiths joined in the action, showing that compassion is the universal response to human tragedy.
Migrants’ camps were slowly put up in different parts of the city and while food and accommodation were provided, the quality of life of these workers and their families posed a question. How do we treat them as guests and not only as mouths to feed? The experience of collaboration between government (municipal) and civil society organizations has been good, in several instances.
At the camp at St. Stanislaus school grounds, Bandra, a joint responsibility resulted in creative efforts to care for the quality of life in the camp. Medical needs were taken care of through the Municipal hospital and a private Catholic hospital nearby. Entertainment was provided by means of Hindi films in the evenings. Some non-contact sports were possible. But the group really came to life when a Face Shield Making activity was started with the help of an NGO. Sullen inmates suddenly brightened up, with the chance of something productive and remunerative. A family atmosphere slowly developed, even with the celebration of a religious festival, in the multi-religious group.
And then they seemed worried about the possibility of travel back home. Every single one of the workers wanted to go back. Even the offer of an immediate job did not distract or deter them from this deeply-felt desire. They did not belong here anymore! They wanted to get out! And so the task of doing all the formalities began - booking tickets by train or bus, long days of hopeful waiting and slowly the camp cleared up, leaving behind a few homeless men and women, for whom Homes for the Destitute had to be sought in or around the city. These had nowhere to go.
What awaited them back home? The deep cry of the heart for the human bond of Relationships! Nothing else! There was no economic activity to keep them occupied and to give them a wage to keep their families alive. The bitter irony of this see-saw existence is that a large percentage of workers have found their way back into the city and economic activity has picked up. The city has gained with its workforce now grudgingly available once again and workers have found jobs which are not available in their hometowns or villages.
Are there lessons to learn? Or will life get back into the same groove? Wages and work conditions need to improve, decent human habitation must be provided by government and employers, public health and education facilities must be well financed and the overall quality of life has to be a focus. Justice, not mere compassion is needed. Because we are all inter-connected and inter-dependent! Did we need the virus to teach us this?
Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas S.J. St. Peter’s Church, and St. Stanislaus High School, Bandra.
THE ELDERLY - THEIR MENTAL STRUGGLE
Corona Virus, COVID-19, Lockdown, Social distancing etc etc……are words that will frighten people of any age, gender, class or creed. Why? The dread is sort of invisible YET people are dying. This year, 2020 has turned out to be a crazy, scary and confusing time in everybody’s lives. There has been a bulk of ‘information overload’ that has essentially converted COVID -19 into a digital ‘infodemic’ especially for those staying alone. All leading to a lot of anxiety, apprehension and fear – specially fear of the unknown.
This article will address these issues of our ‘living golden treasures’….the elderly.
At the beginning of this pandemic lockdown, it was like an extended holiday. Everyone was home - no office, no school, and no pressure. As the month of April crept up, there was chaos. Stay safe, stay home, wash your hands, and wear a mask were phrases bombarded at all. One was terrified even to breathe. Add to that no transport, no house help, alone at home. Gradually one wondered, how will I get my food, my basic necessities, my doctor, my medicines? More fear and panic was beginning to set in with terrible questions and thoughts running through one’s mind. How will I manage?
The children, living in distant lands or even nearby but unable to come across, worried sick about their elderly. Is it worth all this? Now other thoughts creeping in, praying, praying, praying….The effects of the quarantine can be paramount leading to loneliness, physical distancing from their loved ones, grief, anxiety and chronic stress that can have long-standing psychological effects. The geriatric age-group already has unique physical, psycho-social and environmental vulnerabilities, owing to the frailty associated with age and to be told that you are very vulnerable, can be extremely frightening and very fear-inducing. Its impact can be particularly difficult for older people who may be experiencing cognitive decline or dementia.
Some older people may already be socially isolated and experiencing loneliness which can worsen mental health. Neglect, loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety and abuse are the associated evils especially at times of social distancing practiced during present times. Many elderly might not be well-versed with technology leading to increased emotional distancing in the absence of even digital contact with their loved ones. So how does one begin to cope?
Remember, a good mental status in difficult times may win you the battle more easily! Senior Citizens (above sixty years of age) and Super Senior Citizens (above eighty years of age) are used to dealing with life and its challenges at their own pace. Some respond cooperatively to change while some do not like it at all. The ongoing pandemic has certainly changed everyone’s routine. Elders need to realign to this new normal. With people working from home, and schools and colleges being shut, elders have more people at home but that also means residing in a shared space for a longer period. Their needs should be acknowledged and changes need to be well communicated.
Resort to technology to help them speak to their doctors (telemedicine) without stepping out of the house. Stock up on essential medicines for a month or so. If technologically challenged, give them a simple short course on how to do a WA video call. One needs to maintain physical distancing NOT social distancing. So keep in touch with friends, neighbours, family over the phone, it can bring a lot of joy. Family can assist them to set up a helpline too, if on their own. Limit the news-watching time on television in the house. It is imperative to stay alert however, being exposed to negativity can be harmful to the peace of mind.
Everybody needs to continue maintaining a routine, more so the elderly who are staying alone. Those who are lonely and sick may be plagued with thoughts like, is life worth living? It would better if death came sooner. They may even harbor thoughts of euthanasia. They need to have life-giving people around them so that they get adequate nutrition, proper rest and some amount of exercise within their homes. Dispelling such thoughts with creating a happy atmosphere will be helpful. Strengthening their immunity to the virus is of utmost importance, so encourage them to do some deep breathing exercises and simple yoga will help. Music, song and dance therapies have a positive effect too. It will take their mind off the difficult situation.
As the lockdown opens up, one can sit in small groups with necessary precautions (wear a mask, keep a sanitizer handy) for a chat or prayers or exercising together. Chat about happy times, revisit old memories, share recipes, do something – even small – for others. Celebrating festivals, birthdays etc helps keep one orientated today and date. Make notes on the Calendar for upcoming events that may interest you. There is a plethora of events available these days. Elderly people have to go through tough transitions like retirement, widowhood, loss of a spouse, and relocation. Many of them also have to say goodbye to a large number of friends who have returned to the Lord before they do. All of these transitions can be tough to deal with. But keep in mind…..This too shall pass!
Stay safe and stay well.
MEDICS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
REACH OUT TO THE SICK
Sr. Dr Beena Madhavath UMI
COVID 19 has left the world in huge disarray and has impacted every sphere of our lives. The worst affected are the healthcare professionals. As I write this, more than 140 doctors have succumbed to COVID-19 in India. Many more have suffered from severe disease and had a stormy recovery. My personal experience as a practicing doctor was challenging as well as moving. It has been a journey filled with uncertainty, challenges, fears, hope and fulfillment. Managing this new disease posed a lot of administrative hurdles, operational challenges, clinical dilemmas and financial constraints. Healthcare workers at the forefront of the war against coronavirus are not only facing the daunting task of handling patients, but are also fighting to keep their own worries and emotional stress at bay. Yet we continue to give our best even risking our own life and the lives of our family members
As in many other countries, we quickly recognized in multi-layered ways that fear and stress was affecting our health care workers. We strove to provide adequate PPE, but while it protects, wearing PPE in Mumbai’s hot humid weather is suffocating; we are drenched in sweat within minutes of putting it on and it’s difficult to move around. Protective goggles vapour up and blur one’s vision. Wearing N95 masks necessitates us to speak loudly to be audible, making it very tiring to communicate with patients and other medical team members. In addition to this, a lot of information has to be provided over the telephone, as anxious relatives cannot enter the isolation ward. Often, we returned late evenings to our rooms emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
These work stresses were compounded by family concerns. To protect their families, some staff members had to miss important family celebrations and events—even to postpone their own wedding dates! Family members of our medical team who are far away in their homes had much anxiety. Horrifying news updates about COVID-19 in Mumbai flooded the news channels. Many of our nursing staff from South India was compelled by their parents to resign their job, leaving an additional burden on those who stayed behind. Yet, those fears are not entirely unfounded. About a couple of months ago a doctor and three Sisters from my team started showing COVID symptoms. They tested positive and were admitted to the same isolation ward. The news of their sickness was deeply distressing. Certainly, we were so worried about their wellbeing, but have to admit—we were afraid of contracting the illness.
At one instance we had to refuse admissions to patients due to non-availability of beds. Unfortunately, on those occasions, we were pressurized by some media houses and activists. This was not only stressful, but the misinformation and biased partial truth fed through newspapers and social media, has had a negative impact on our personnel who are dedicated even beyond the call of duty. Society may call us “COVID warriors,” or “COVID Heroes” but it is extremely sad that doctors and medical staff, who are the frontline warriors in the fight against this Pandemic, are at the receiving end of threatening calls from these activists and agitated relatives and even facing violent attacks by the mob. It is disheartening to know that in some other parts of the country a few patients lodged consumer complaints with allegations of getting infections from clinics and hospitals. With all these factors many of the doctors and nurses are experiencing Compassion, Fatigue and burnout. It is our responsibilities to care for the caregivers. Hence we have engaged a counselor to accompany the staff. The senior management team also spends time listening to, reassuring, and motivating our caregivers.
Despite these difficulties, each time a patient recovers, each time a COVID-positive mother delivers a baby, we all experience a moment of joy, affirming the powerful presence of the Divine Healer and His miraculous healing touch. Each recovery and discharge is a rewarding and joy filled Moment for the entire medical team. It lifts our spirits and motivates us to work better and serve the patients and our nation in these moments of crisis.
My experience with this pandemic has only reaffirmed the patient-centric approach that has always been central to our Healing Mission. While state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic intervention are important for healing, we have always believed that by building a personal rapport with every patient and their distressed relatives we strengthen our bond with the community we serve. Now we see even more clearly the need to consider the human dimensions of technological medicine. Going forward, we need to develop much greater ability and resilience to attend to the spiritual, mental, and emotional health of our patients, our caregivers, and our communities.
These past six months certainly have been and remain fraught with difficulties. COVID-19 has made glaringly visible issues we already knew all too well. But it has also provided many moments of prayer, grace and hope, including new possibilities and paths forward for advancing our original Healing Mission - to serve the needs of a multi-layered community and to provide compassionate, affordable and quality care especially in the margins of the society.
The battle is not finished. Even though we put in our best efforts, we still are not able to give optimum care to our patients given our billion-plus population in India. The disease is spreading fast from cities to the rural areas. The government hospitals in certain states do not function well and do not have modern equipment, essential drugs or other medical supplies needed to manage critical patients. I am in the process of reaching out to the rural villages and tribal belts of our country through the Sister Doctors in collaboration with the Catholic Health Association of India. We have watched people from all strata of society, irrespective of caste, creed, and economic status, come together to pool their resources and help each other. Goodwill abounds, and caring and sharing has become the norm. In many ways, it has generated a new globalized movement for solidarity and interconnectedness.
Life recently has been like our worst nightmare come true: a miniscule virus comes out of nowhere, and gets us all on our knees! Life changes, lifestyle changes….and how!!
Late in March, the pandemic, peppered with a levelheaded lockdown, began to last longer than was expected. Our frustration levels were stretched, and tolerance tested, making us realize that there were very few options to choose from. Masking, sanitizing and physical distancing became the new normal. Fear of the virus was looming much larger than the pandemic caused by the virus itself.
Blasting bolts of BREAKING NEWS! Often leave us broken, with echoes of “The nation wants to know…” overwhelming us with anger, anxiety and alarming anticipation. Meaningless whatsapp forwards only added further insult to injury!! Dale Carnegie- American author and motivator has rightly said “Our greatest fears are caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment!”
Staying at home and working from home did initially catch our fancy, but soon proved to be more exhausting and time-consuming than regular work schedules, blurring the lines between personal and professional limits! Salary cuts, job losses, delayed recruitment and total shutdown, was now becoming more evident across the occupational scenario, taking its toll, one family at a time. Project delays, exam confusion, result relays, admission uncertainty, online classes- all of this was making academics seem more complicated than it already was.
The lonely, the elderly, the migrants and the homeless- all were falling prey to hopelessness and helplessness. Boredom blues, bingeing on gadgets and gizmos, non-stop net-flixing, addictions old and new...… and heightened stress levels, commonly trigger mental health breakdowns or provoke a relapse of such illnesses. Feelings of intense fear, anger, sadness and doubt, then affect our sleep, appetite, thoughts, behaviours, emotions, immunity and physical health too…sometimes filling us with emptiness, and the weary wish to die!
A reality check reveals that combating these fears, frustration and suicidal thoughts, at the earliest, is the only way forward towards boosting our psychological and physical immunity. Wake up and smell the coffee- this is a pandemic of epic proportions, and the risk is all around. But science can help us weed away fact from fiction, emphasizing that fatalistic trends are not the most common order of the day. Being responsible in our behavior, obeying the laws outlined to curtail further spread of the virus, and planning discreetly for the future, can have manifold enhancing effects, ensuring a happier and healthier tomorrow.
Acceptance, adjustability and adaptability, will stand us in good stead this year. Patience and perseverance will help us build up our resilience. Eating well, sleeping well, thinking well…at least attempting to, is a step in the right direction! Reaching out to those around, connecting with friends and family on the virtual platform, repeated reassurance to those that need it, expressing gratitude- all of these can make a positive difference amidst the negativity and gloom, that’s surrounding us all. Outlining a structure for the day, balancing our work and relaxation, with fixed times for our exercises, meals and siesta; helps to counter boredom and indecisiveness.
Constructive hobbies, channelization of energies and creative use of time, neutralize boredom. Positive affirmations for fueling our self-confidence, simple yoga asana’s( pranayama, sukhasana, shavasana, etc) for therapeutic benefits, visualization exercises to transform our cognitions from clutter to clarity- will all help in stabilizing the self, in the middle of this captivating chaos. Anchoring our insecurities along the shores of a balanced spirituality is a strengthening and satisfying experience. Communication is key- expressing our emotions, bonding with belief, relishing in the quality and quantity of time available, zoom reunions of friends and family, social media, soul curry,…options galore !
As we believe, that this too shall pass- and the consolidated medical efforts of all the Covid warriors, and the much anticipated success of the vaccine trials are hopefully becoming a reality- let us remember that if any of the problems of mind, continue for more than a period of two weeks, professional help must be urgently sought, in the form of an opinion of the counselor or psychiatrist available. Awareness and recognition of faulty thoughts, emotions and behaviours must essentially percolate community consciousness, and thereby sensitize us all towards proactive intervention.
I would like to conclude in the empowering lines of Life-coach and motivator, Allan Rufus:
“Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move. Knowing which move to make comes with IN-SIGHT and knowledge, and by learning the lessons that are accumulated along the way.”
Let us make this a life changing opportunity of learning lessons that will make our life worthwhile once more
Dr Fabian Almeida - Psychiatrist, Counselor & Motivator
Salute our Pro-Life Heroes
Scores of Corona virus heroes are Pro-Life heroes; they have shown Care, Compassion, Empathy, Patience, Gentleness and Sensitivity essential human qualities which touch the lives of people. Many of them have done this at great risk to their own lives and that of their families. They have ‘walked the talk’ of Jesus have offered their lives to protect, preserve and save human lives. See what these two ladies had to say about their loved ones.
One wife said, “My husband died trying to protect his bus passengers from corona virus. Please stay home so his death isn’t in vain.”
As a nurse, I took an oath to take care of people. But my child and husband didn’t sign up to get sick. I had to find ways to care for them.
So let us salute them and keep them in constant prayer.
Webinar on Pornography
The Archdiocesan Human Life Committee (AHLC) conducted its first WEBINAR on Saturday 22nd August 2020. The topic was: Pornography – A Psycho Pandemic. The esteemed speakers were Sr. Joeyanna D’Souza FSP and Dr. Fabian Almeida. The Webinar was for married couples and was well attended. Below is some feedback on the Webinar.
The Archdiocesan Human Life Committee (AHLC) on the 22nd of August conducted a session on Pornography and how it impacts our personal and social lives. With 80 plus individuals in attendance, the session saw a mix of both laity and clergy. The two-part session focused on the psychological and spiritual aspects of pornography as well as the importance of counseling and therapy.
Dr Sr. Joeyanna FSP, beautifully explained how pornography dampers human interaction while having an adverse effect on marriage and family. With external resources and material for further reading, her session was filled with information on how individuals, couples and families can understand pornography and deal with the situation better.
Dr Fabian Almeida on the other hand, explored the psychological and physiological aspects of pornographic addiction. He explained in detail how it affects the mind and the therapies that are available to deal with this addiction effectively.
The one line that stood out which in a way encompasses the entire session is that people need to have a clear distinction between what is happening to them and what they are, this will empower them to not only accept the problem but deal with it without condemning themselves.
All in all, the session was excellent; it gave the participants cues on how to detect the problem and at the same time encouraged them to seek help.
- Carissa Gudino Lawrence
The session organized on "The Psycho Pandemic"* on 22nd August, 2020 by AHLC was an extremely informative and enlightening one. The esteemed panelists consisting of Sr.Joeyanna, FSP and Dr. Fabian Almeida shared vital data which was an eye-opener and which compelled us to believe pornography is an under-current affecting a majority of couples and families in society.
We also learnt that these actions of individuals which were considered as perversion could have also been a fall-out of a past experience and that recovery is possible with various therapy n support of spouse/family. Various books and online links were shared as reference data to enhance our knowledge on this subject. We sincerely felt that it is imperative that more awareness to be created on this subject which will impact the mindsets of the victims & their families.
We would be happy to participate in such informative programs which could empower the Family Cell to conduct similar sessions at the Parish level, like this one. Thank you!!
- Lloyd & Sarita Gonsalves