PANDEMIC: Finding Positives

People often share about how this pandemic affected us in a negative way. I wonder if we ever considered how it can have a transforming effect in our lives too.


Angie Escarsa

by Angelica Escarsa, a Filipina Columban lay missionary assigned in Ireland

The Internet provides a difference between the word change and transformation. Change is a response to external influence, where modifying day-to-day action achieves desired results. Transformation, on the other hand, is about modifying core beliefs and long-term behavior in profound ways to reach goals. Transformation is what I would call the result of the experiences happening to many of us, if not all, as we face the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. People often share about how this pandemic affected us in a negative way. I wonder if we ever considered how it can have a transforming effect in our lives too.

 The Far East Magazine, in its first three issues in 2021, published articles from Columbans who shared their thoughts and reflection about the pandemic and its effect on the world. In the January/February 2021 issue,  Fr. Ray Husband said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought death, suffering and economic hardships to millions of people across the world especially to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world.” Fr. John Boles wrote in the March and April issue: “The COVID pandemic has brought hardships and tragedy to countless numbers throughout the world. But it has also brought out the best in many people and connected up remarkable individuals who otherwise might never have met”.

Fr. George Hogarty remarked, “The coronavirus pandemic crept up on us like a lion through tall grass. Nobody saw it coming and we could not have foreseen the changes it would make in our lives.” To comprehend and grasp how this unprecedented phenomenon has been affecting our lives is surreal. I, for one, am still flabbergasted by how mysterious this COVID-19 virus is. How could it have taken millions of lives while I, having contracted the virus, survived it by taking only paracetamol, drinking plenty of water with lemon, and getting rest. This pandemic is transforming my whole sense of life on earth. If I can’t learn something new as a result of this pandemic, then I never will! 

Pope Francis in his Fratelli Tutti (FT #35) expressed these words which Fr. Cyril Lovett shared in the editorial page in the March/ April issue: “If only this may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing… If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth.” For many months Ireland has been on a lockdown. It was only in May this year when the government started to ease the restrictions allowing inter-county travel. Because of the lockdown, my ministry and meetings with different groups like SIM, Youth Ministry with the Dublin Diocese, and the Lay Mission Group Support in Dublin are all done online. My movement has been limited to the house, the park, Glasnevin Cemetery and the shop. 

For many months this has been my world and, in a positive way, this has also brought changes into my life. 

  1. I am more connected, through technology, with family, friends, and those in the ministry because I am physically distant from them. 
  2. I am spiritually nourished because being unable to go to church has deepened my longing for God. 
  3. I have become more aware of how vulnerable life is having no control over the virus. 
  4. Having contracted the COVID-19 virus, I have become more aware of my mortality and this has brought me to a deeper surrender of my life to God. As every night could be my last, I experience a deeper sense of gratitude for this gift of life. 
  5. I have become more spiritually connected to my family as we pray the rosary everyday no matter what our situation is. I have also begun to set aside time for silent prayer. 

These are not temporary changes which will eventually go away. These amount to a transformation that will always be with me after realizing a fundamental truth: we are not alone even if we are physically isolated. 

I truly hope that the worldwide tragedy of Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened the sense that we are a global community. As Pope Francis said, “We are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another.” (FT #32)

“God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of 'them' and 'those', but only 'us'.” (FT #35)

Angie Escarsa 2

Angie with the Columban Sisters and some youth, enjoying a day out.