“Like many of us around the world, I’ve been watching the mass devastation that’s been unfolding in India with a heavy heart, especially since India is one of the places I and several of my closest friends have called home. Many of the Russell Berrie Fellows, including current Fellows, are from the Indian subcontinent, and I know that many are currently mourning the loss of loved ones, even while from abroad here in Rome, which adds another dimension to the grieving process,” reflected Gianluca Avanzato, a Russell Berrie Fellow of Cohort XIII now in Rome.
With the help and support of other Fellows and JPII Leaders from South Asia, a prayer Vigil was organized by Cohort XIII to share, be together and pray for that area of the world currently hit by a harsh wave of Covid-19.
Ruki Salgado moderated the prayer vigil that took place on May 26, and Father Baiju Julian shared a reflection. Both of them are Russell Berrie Fellows of the current cohort but could not make their way to Rome because of Covid-19: Ruki is in Sri Lanka and Father Baiju in Kerala, India.
Father Baiju, who is in a lockdown area now, shared a recent experience he had at the local hospital where the space to treat Covid-19 patients was totally full of people. “In my time – he said – this was the hardest experience of the pandemic.” He witnessed how people turn to God and pray in difficult times and he recited Psalm 91 for us.
Sister Vimal Jyothy Joseph, JPII Leader from Cohort X working as a physician in a clinic in Orissa (India), has been treating Covid-19 patients for many months. She was also instructing people on basic precautions to avoid Covid-19 spread. However, when she went to Kerala she got infected and she told us about the three hard weeks she spent, struggling to win over the virus. “My lungs and heart were affected. After treating the patients, I became the victim,” she shared. Prayer was a huge support for her. “God is the One who can save us,” Sr. Vimal reminded everyone, highlighting as well how relationships between people got stronger over this time: everyone was trying to help each other.
Over the course of the prayer vigil, other participants voiced their prayers: for doctors and nurses, for those who are worried, for all those who mourn, for those who have a relative or a dear friend under treatment and cannot be physically close to him/her.
The vigil ended with the Mi Sheberach prayer, a Jewish prayer for healing, recited by Allyson Zacharoff (Cohort VI) during which all those who wanted shared the name of someone they wanted to pray for:
Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor bah’rachah l’imoteinu
May the source of strength
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage
to make our lives a blessing,
and let us say, Amen
Mi shebeirach imoteinu,
M’kor hab’rachah la’avoteinu.
Bless those in need of healing,
with r’fuah sh’leima.
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit.
And let us say – Amen.
We keep praying for our brothers and sisters in South Asia and all those who are sick and struggling right now because of the pandemic.