Missionary Oblates of Immaculate in Indonesia Province Amidst the Corona Pandemic Situation

written by: Sc. Bryan Evan Pabubung OMI*

The situation of Covid-19 has given some unique colors in various aspect of human’s life. We often heard that many kinds of problems and questions have been raising up among the world society about what is exactly happened now, how to see and how to understand  the matter, how to find the real meaning from this Covid-19 pandemic reality? Those questions didn’t find its easy answer since this pandemic has been affecting all the human’s life dimensions and even went through the deepest of our human’s aspects.

The Effect of Covid-19 in Various Aspects

 Donations of medical equipment for Panti Rapih Hospital

The first which was being affected badly by this pandemic is economic sector. The government’s policy to forbid any gathering in a large number has caused for example the factories being closed without further notice where it’s going to be opened. It’s a serious problem for the laborers who had been working in those companies and depending their life on daily wages. Without any chance to work again the factories, certainly they will not get the wages which is their main income. And so, to say in other sectors like tourism, hotels, minor vendors, online taxi-drivers, agriculture, and livestock, etc.  Question arise on how we should face this fact and help those affected?

            The anxiety about global economic crisis began when our Rupiah exchange rate weaken into level Rp.16,600 against USD, down from the previous months of Rp. 14,200.  People started question, will this phenomenon cause Indonesia to plunge into an economic crisis again like what had happened in 1997-1998? But it is a fortune that after e few days rally, our exchange rate growth back to its optimistic indicator day by day. We appreciate very much our Government who has taken a very good step by giving assistance for nine million poor people and vehicle credit’s relief for online-taxi drivers. It surely will help the poor in such difficult situation.

Education sector also affected by this pandemic. Every school and university have to do their academic activities by online system. In our Scholastic Seminary, just for example, the Oblate brother and scholastics have to do the same thing. Every morning started from eight o’clock to twelve o’clock we gathered in our computer room to follow the online study. Luckily, our community still have a good facility to adjust ourselves in this method and situation. Our thinking was flying to those who do not have such while they cannot go back to their hometown where to stay at their boarding houses is the only choice they could do.  We have observed that some of them found very hard to receive financial support from their parents especially those who were fired from their works caused by this pandemic situation.

Social life in our society also has changed drastically. People are forced to make a certain distance to each other as per standard procedure of health regulation. Social/physical distancing forbids people to have an assembly or getting together in a big or large crowd.  Stay at home is the only choice to prevent people from being affected by the virus or spread it out. Local government like regencies and residents decided to lockdown their areas voluntarily. Some good signs also appeared where people join hand in hand to help their neighbors for their self-quarantine safety.

            We turn our concern seriously to those who have been affected by the virus and being rejected by their own family and neighbor. The number is quite significant. The same suffering also happened for those who are being suspected, some medical workers, and so to say to their family too. The saddest thing happened when the corpse of the people who died caused by this virus had been rejected to be buried in public cemeteries in some districts. We started question, where is the sense of humanity and solidarity among those people? Why is it so weak and even has gone from our society?

 Donations of foodbank for people in need during COVID-19

In such condition, we found that some people have been trying to get some personal benefits from this pandemic. What a pity and tragic. Just to mention one case here that,   when the government announced that two people from Depok Resident (part of Jakarta Province) found  positively affected by Corona Virus, many people bought up masks, hand sanitizer, medical cloths, food items and simply store it for themselves or even some have resold it in  a very high price. People were panic buying those things simply for their own sake. Again, in such condition, it was a terrible moment for those who are depending their life on daily wages payment, the poor laborers in some factories. They certainly couldn’t buy and store so many foods and such needs on a same time.

Day by day we receive updated news about this virus. Based on data from https://covid19.go.id/ on Friday, May 15th 2020, in Indonesia there are: 16496 cases: 11617 are patient still in medical care, 3803 patient were discharged, and 1076 were died caused by this virus. If we follow another updated data, the number of people whose died caused by this virus is increasing day by day. But, comparatively, the good news is that the number who are being cured is increasing significantly after they got some medical treatment in respective hospitals.

Pastoral of the Church amidst Corona Disease

Blood donation from OMI Seminary with Indonesian Red Cross for patients who need

On facing these new phenomena of this corona pandemic, we ask ourselves as children of God, what Church can do to ease the problem? Since the government have made a policy on social distancing regarding gathering and assembly, Indonesian Church too has faced a new challenge for her pastoral ministry. People are not allowed to celebrate Eucharist in the church. Indonesian Bishops’ Conference advices that all faithful activities in the church or in a parish area included Sacramental ministries are done in a very limited way during this time.

Celebrating online Eucharist is a new innovation from the Church. Priests have to celebrate the Eucharist without the attendance of the faithful directly. All the faithful who join the Eucharist from TV, smartphone, or a laptop is doing it without receiving Holy Communion as per normal practice. We have observed that many people were shaken by this condition and feel that something which is very important for their spiritual life suddenly missing. They have to hold back their longing for the Eucharist and receiving the Body of Christ as a sense of social solidarity toward the grieving world. Another question also appeared that how Church could serve the faithful which are spread out in a rural area who doesn’t have a good access to the internet to join an online Eucharist. Surely, there are so many problems of faith have to be addressed by the Church.

            We realize that in such situation, Church shouldn’t present herself in divine sacramental ministries only. People needs the real present of the Church among them. We couldn’t let the faithful feel just like a flock without a shepherd. In this kind of situation, the passion of the shepherd for whom and for what he fills every second of their life is being tested and his creativity on pastoral care being challenged as well. Is he still doing his ministries devotedly for the poor and the most affected by this disease?

donation foodbank for college student who far away from home

Some responses on Pastoral Ministry from the OMI Indonesian Province 

As a part of universal Church, Oblates Missionary of Mary Immaculate in Indonesia Province enflamed by the spirit of St. Eugene de Mazenod do not want to take a lazy seat only and watch the situation from afar. The first think the Oblates did was to follow the general instruction from every (Arc)Diocese where the Oblate unit present like keep the social and physical distancing in every of their ministry. Below are some activities being done by some of the Oblates’ community in their respective places and ministries.

            Wisma de Mazenod-Indonesian Oblates Scholasticate community in Yogyakarta uses this precious chance to go deeper in reflection and meet God within our hearts, so we could have a better understanding of God’s will. It is a moment that helping us to make the transformation on our lives. This chance also became a precious time for us to find some new innovations on doing our pastoral activities which are more compatible with the needs of the poor and the faithful.

Father Antonius Radjabana, OMI

            Fr. Radjabana, OMI- the Parish Priest of Santa Maria Imakulata Parish, Jakarta is very active to greet his faithful in his Parish especially by making the daily reflection on-off line video. He has been doing this way of catechism for more than 30 days. He spread those videos through social media, addresses all the faithful, schools nearby, university students, and factory laborers near by the parish. Inspiring videos also made by our Scholasticate Community through Visual Communication division of the community. The videos from scholasticate community were uploaded in many social media applications to greet all the faithful, using some encouraging songs, words, or even short sermons and reflections.

            Fr. Dominikus Pareta, OMI in Malinau Parish, North Borneo does his ministry by routinely delivering the holy communion for the faithful who cannot join the online Eucharist and visiting them in their houses. While in Cilacap Parish, Central Java, the priests maintain an online mass to greet the faithful to strengthen them in such critical situation. The Oblates also distributed foods to students, the poor, those who lost their jobs, disabilities people, also some medical equipment such as masks, medical cloths, and hand sanitizer for the hospital, village public health center, social foundation, clinic, some nursing homes, and orphanages. This type of help was seriously and continuously done by our Oblate communities in Banyumas Parish-Central Java, Trinity Parish in Jakarta, and Malinau Parish.

Father Yohanes Damianus, OMI

            During the semi lockdown caused by this pandemic, the Oblates in Provincial House, Fr. Eko Saktio, OMI (Provincial), Fr. Damianus, and Bro Jojo OMI in Kaliori, Central Java could help the people surround by giving them food and jobs for working in our new cows’ farm. Over 50 poor families were getting involved actively in this project, where the initiative of the project was triggered by this pandemic.  People all feel very thankful for the projects and giving their deep appreciation and grateful to the Oblates.   Besides that, the Oblates also making a daily catechesis through Marian Shrine of Gua Maria Kaliori fan-page account on Facebook, where over half of million followers are receiving daily biblical quotation and short selected spiritual writings.

Fr. Yoyon OMI is continuously helping some people and his parishioners in Sebakung, East Kalimantan/Borneo to sell their crops and rice, since it was not an easy way to go out from their villages because of local quarantine.  While Scholasticate Community did a blood donor for the people in need, working together with the PMI (Indonesia Red Cross), to help some hospitals who have been struggling looking for such needs during the pandemic. They also tried to become ‘a bridge’, by collecting some items from the faithful who were willing and have a capability to help other who are in needs of those kindness donations.

Father A. Wiyono, OMI

Serving the undeserved is the main spirit which inflames all the oblates to do their missions to answer the needs.  Those-who are belong the undeserved could be found easily during this time of crisis. A creative pastoral ministry is an invitation to bring “the altar to the market”, make the word of God on passion and compassionate become reality. Every Oblate community have their own way to spread the Good News amidst this pandemic condition. Sharing some experiences among us could be a best moment to strengthen and enrich our vocation and ministries. May the oblation’s spirits to serve the needy and the poor always inflame in every Oblate, especially in this special condition. May Lord Jesus Christ bless us, and Mother Mary protect us.

*The author is a first-year Oblate scholastic from Indonesian Oblate scholasticate community, Yogyakarta-Indonesia.