Covid Notes of the Year (10)

By: José Antonio Michelena and Yarelis Rico Hernández

Ilustración: Ángel Alonso

We traveled through the eighth month of the year dealing with Covid-19. We would have wanted to live all this time in a capsule, in a hyperbaric chamber, in hibernation, and go outside only when it all happened. But so many things have happened in the global village in these seven months… And what is life without the experience of everyday life, of what happens and happens to us.

No matter how isolated we were, we couldn’t be without hearing the beating of the world, the multiple stories, from the origin and spread of the new coronavirus and the follow-up to the health crisis, to the social effects of an African-American suffocation by a cop in Minneapolis. Isn’t that quite one story?

On the island we have not been oblivious to the events outside, but also inside things have happened. And for everything there are criteria and positions that cause dissequents and shocks when intolerance emerges, the voices that scream louder because they want to be the only ones heard, the ones who believe themselves to be bearers of the truth.

Word New wanted to share the expressions of a group of diverse voices to offer to its readers as a sample of the personal and collective experiences that have been lived in this peculiar and amazing leap year, this twenty-twenty turned quarent(en)a.

We have asked these people to tell us about their experiences in these months, how their days have passed, how they have faced the challenges and what reading they make of what happened, what their ideas are about it.

The faces shown to me by the Covid-19

By: Tania Gómez Rodríguez

When I heard the news at the end of 2019 that a new epidemic was emerging in China, I became Christianly sensitive to them and asked the Lord to protect them, but it was something that happened on the other side of the planet, I never imagined that I would reach such magnitude and mark the life of the whole world.

Months later my children would stop going to school because we had to stay home to take care of our health and that of others.

Tania junto a su esposo e hijos.
Tania with her husband and children.

I don’t think I have to mention all the changes that have happened and the choppy projects. Fear of contagion appeared. Every precaution seemed little. Every time we heard an ambulance approaching or we got the comment that someone could have acquired the virus, a memory search was launched about the last time we had seen it and under what circumstances. My block had three positive cases and one suspect; thank God, no deceased.

However, we also discover god’s hand in the midst of this storm. Along with fear, burden and despair, attitudes and testimonies also appear that allow us to discover the lights that stand out in the midst of so many shadows.

First, live faith in the family. Bringing Easter into the house was something new. In those days the WhatsApp group emerged from the cathedral of Pinar del Río and the father guided us to the liturgy every day. The televised transmission of Holy Mass from the Copper Shrine, coupled with our bishop’s radio messages and then the sunday programs by the local broadcaster, opened an opportunity for family members who do not practice our faith, to also sit with us at those times and together present to God the faces of so many sick people and the lives of our people.

Tania (detrás en la foto) junto a Mons. Juan de Dios Hernández y parte del equipo realizador del programa radial.
Tania (pictured) with Msgr. Juan de Dios Hernández and part of the radio program’s team.

As a divine gift I was invited to be part of the team of realization of “A God who goes out to meet”, program of the diocese of Pinar del Río that was broadcast every Sunday, at ten in the morning, by Radio Guamá and Radio Artemis. It’s been a wonderful experience! It was a major challenge; I had never worked in that environment, but in it we found real professionals who became great teachers and friends to us.

Through this experience we interviewed several people for the program, including Father Roger Marcel Harlee, IMO, parish priest of San Diego and resident of Los Palacios, who lived in days of isolation in the Inclán (rural settlement prepared to accommodate cases of suspicion or contagion of the Covid-19 in the area) with two seminarians, as one of them had a fever and sore throat. The father told us how he turned his days of confinement into a prayer retreat; he was never lonely, constantly receiving calls from the bishop, the parish community, religious, his priest brothers and community.

Other testimonies were that of Aileen Leal Flores, of the parish of St. Francis of Asses, graduated in Microbiology; that of Dr. Danay of the Fleitas Conception, a stomatologist specializing in Periodontics; and that of his daughter, Talía María Gort Fleitas, a third-year medical student, both from St. Rosendo’s Cathedral, who expressed how faith in God allowed them to overcome fear and go out every morning to research, giving a Christian meaning to their daily work.

On the other hand, the life of the diocese did not stop. From the Bishopric, where we were in a very small number of workers, as from the parishes that make up this particular Church, communication with the people was maintained by telephone or email. Efforts focused on accompanying the faithful from a distance; that is why work on social media intensified, through which material was distributed for prayer and reopening was prepared at the right time.

Upon entering the recovery phases, the first Pastoral Letter of our bishop, Msgr. Juan de Dios Hernández Ruíz, SJ, called “I say to you, get up and walk” (can be downloaded on the site and Facebook page of the diocese). The document encourages us to reflect on the response we give Jesus to his invitation to let him become present in our reality.

From the experience lived we organize and hold the meeting of Pastoral Agents. It was an opportunity to listen to each other and project future work from the strengthening of the Christian community. To do this we have the support of the document “Born again”, in which our bishop makes an analysis of reality and offers us tools to continue the path. At the conclusion of this meeting we celebrate the Crismal Mass.

Durante la confección del programa radial.
During the preparation of the radial program.

The radio program is continuing, but now only on social media. We also distribute it in parishes through flash memories and WhatsApp groups. Those who have the possibility to download it on the site of the diocese of Pinar del Río, their Facebook page, or on RCJ- Radio, copy it and pass it on to those who do not have access to the internet. May one day we have a fixed space on the radio so that again our people can receive a program that does so much good to their life, as those who listened to it through this means have told us! As that day comes, we continue to work with the constant evocation of the power of mustard seed, capable of bringing to life the most robust of trees.

This has been my experience during this pandemic that has caused so much weeping in those who have lost loved ones; so much fear and uncertainty in society. But, at the same time, it reminds us that we are fragile and vulnerable, that anyone can be infected, that we are responsible for the health of those around us, that crises push us to look for alternatives to continue advancing, that creativity develops in adversity… He has taught me, above all, that God always becomes present, and no matter how hard my reality is, when I look at the cross, I am speechless to complain and my prayer becomes different.

Unfortunately, cases have increased again, communities in the diocese have been closed again, and uncertainty about future days returns. May we learn the lessons that the pandemic brings us and never make the mistakes we used to make.

Tania Gómez Rodríguez
Tania Gómez Rodríguez

Tania Gómez Rodríguez (Pinar del Río, 1978). Telecommunications and Electronics Engineer (UPR “Hnos Saíz”, 2006). Graduated from the Diploma of Social Communication (ITEPAL-CELAM, 2014). He works at the Bishopric of Pinar del Río. Member of the Diocesan Commission on Social Communication. Member of SIGNIS-Pinar del Río.

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