Father Babu Joseph, SVD
Recently, I read the news about the untimely death of several Catholic priests and religious sisters. And I was shocked and sad to learn that so far 191 catholic priests and 196 religious sisters have died of COVID-19 in India.
During the first wave last year not many priests and religious were affected. Thank God for that! But the situation was quite different during the second wave of the pandemic. This is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in India that it has lost so many consecrated persons within such a short duration of just one month.
Frankly speaking, it is a huge loss for the Church in India because it takes many years of efforts and resources to train so many religious men and women who have been at the service of the Church in different parts of the country. Their sudden absence will certainly create a serious concern in some institutions and organizations.
While analyzing the circumstances under which these religious men and women died, it was evident that many of the religious women who have been rendering services as health professionals at hospitals and health centers contracted the virus on duty.
Prolonged exposure to the infected made them vulnerable to the virus and many of them got infected themselves and succumbed to it.
We pay our loving homage to these heroic religious sisters who, without giving a thought to their own safety, served others battling for life. Their supreme sacrifice will serve as a beacon for others who are committed to the welfare of humanity.
When it comes to the priests, it was noticed that many of them were at the service of their people in parishes and institutions. They conducted funeral services, visited the sick in hospitals and homes, administered sacraments to those confined to their homes, interacted with people in distress, reached out to those seeking for assistance.
All these services they rendered without paying much attention to their own life and safety. And they have laid down their lives for the service of humanity.
It is usually the case that occasions of tragedies and calamities bring out the best human qualities in us. As human beings we are moved by the sufferings of fellow human beings, and we spontaneously reach out to them with whatever we have and help them to tide over the situation. This humanitarian aspect in us is best exhibited by many of these priests and sisters who have placed their lives at the service of others.
I am sure that the Church in India, while mourning the passing away of so many religious men and women, is also proud of their valiant efforts to be a source of consolation to many who were suffering due to this pandemic.
The Church has always stepped in at times of human crisis, and its religious personnel have usually been in the frontline to face its brunt. This time too in history, when humanity is facing one of the worst tragedies, our religious men and women have risen up to the occasion to render selfless service following the Mater and Lord Jesus who assured us: Whatever you do the least of my brothers and sisters you do it unto me. (Mt 25:40)
May the Lord grant the eternal reward to our departed brothers and sisters who followed him to the very end.