Bombay Province Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, June 2020
Compiled by Luke Rodrigues SJ
1. Spiritual and Emotional Support
With the lockdown in place, it became necessary to cater to the spiritual and emotional needs of people
in a different way. Our province men responded to this need with an amazing variety of online services.
Parishes initiated the live streaming of the Eucharist. A further initiative is that of sending a daily 'goodnight message' based on the liturgical readings of the next day. Sunday School classes and Jesus Fan Club sessions are all being conducted online, much to the delight of the children (and their
parents of course!). Special inputs were provided on important feast days such as the Sacred Triduum, Divine Mercy Sunday, St. Joseph the Worker, Ascension of Our Lord, etc. Another new venture is that of reflecting on the Mysteries of the Rosary in the light of the four UAPs.
Creative blogs are being run by some of our province members, touching on a variety of spiritual and social topics. Other members have given their reflections on various media outlets. Our institutes of higher education are offering online courses to keep their students intellectually engrossed during this period. Many of our schools are also using the internet to engage creatively with their students.
The younger members of our province demonstrated the great apostolic potential that lies in modern forms of communication. They conducted a Bible quiz which drew in a response from across the country. Building on this, they conducted 'Bible Rendezvous', a series of online classes dealing with Scripture and Prayer. This was followed by sessions on Ignatian Spirituality and further classes on the Bible. Thanks to their zeal and technical know-how, a large number of people have come to know more about the Bible... and about the Jesuits too!
Many of our men have been offering spiritual and psychological help to people who are affected in some way by this pandemic. Our initiatives such as 'Corona Helpline', 'Talk it Out', etc., are offering counseling services over the phone. For the major part, individual Jesuits have taken the trouble to connect with persons in distress, spending much of their time and energy in this effort. The appreciation and gratitude for these services has been overwhelming. Many people sent in feedback saying that they have been touched by the deep insights offered and have been strengthened in this time of difficulty. This feedback has proved to be particularly valuable not just because of the appreciation received but also because it indicates possible directions for the future of the Church and the future of our apostolic endeavours. Most of all, it gave us a confirmation that we were on the right track and had responded to the real needs of people. People want to start and end their day comforted and strengthened by God's Word.
2. Financial and Material Assistance
The desperate condition of migrants and daily wage workers called for an immediate response. In keeping with the spirit of the Magis, our men have reached out with great generosity, engaging in a
large number of relief efforts. What is reported below is a short summary of just what has been reported. It is likely that a lot more is actually being done.
Ambatha - Prabodhan Vastigriha
The Jesuit team conducted relief work in collaboration with MPSM and the FC Sisters. Food packets were distributed to 421 needy families in Surgana taluka, under the supervision of the local Tehshildar.
Ashagad - Our Lady of the forsaken Church: Food packets were distributed to 345 families. 250 kgs Chikoos, and 150 kgs brinjals from our farm were distributed to daily wage labourers. Concientization sessions were taken in different villages regarding hygiene. Distribution of medicines, sanitizers, rice and pulses was also done in two villages.
Manmad - St. Xavier School: About 30 people are staying on the campus. Their food is being taken care of by different groups and the Jesuit institution is providing shelter, toilet articles, water & clothes. Grocery provisions are being provided to 25 needy families. The Manmad Nagar Parishad plans to further use the building and playground for relief work.
Manor - Shanti Seva Mandal: Food parcels have been distributed to 185 tribal families who work in the Brick Kilns. The parcel consists of Rice, Onions, Potatoes, Garlic, Pulses, Masala and Cooking Oil.
Mumbai, Andheri - Holy Family Church: Food provisions were given for 81 needy families of all faiths. The provisions lasted for 15 days and then a second batch was sent to last for 15 days. Monetary help of Rs. 1000/- per family has been given to 147 families, of whom 104 belong to other faiths. 100 kg Rice and 50 kg Dal was given to Migrants stranded in the area. Through Religious Sisters, help has also been provided to other affected groups such as transgenders, ragpickers and autorickshaw drivers. The parish has given financial aid to MPSM/Holy Cross (Rs 1,00,000) and Senhasadan (Rs 25,000). Holy Family School grounds have given to the Police as a transit place for migrants who flock here in large numbers every day en route to board trains at LTT.
Mumbai, Andheri - Vinayalaya: The house bought 3000 masks, 100 pairs of gloves and 90 Sanitizers nd gave these to the police for distribution in the nearby chawls. Rations in the form of Rice and Dal are being regularly provided to about 100 needy families in collaboration with the local authorities. Financial assistance has been given to 105 Katkari families in Kune and its surroundings. Keeping in mind the difficulties being faced by police at the frontlines, we have provided them with Vitamin C tablets.
Mumbai, Andheri – Snehasadan: Efforts are on to provide for all the requirements of the 270 children
and their house-parents, regarding groceries, milk, medicines, fruits, vegetables etc. Some former Snehasadan children have lost their jobs and are being provided help in the form of ration comprising rice, dal, wheat flour, sugar and oil. This is done in collaboration with Ekta Foundation.
Mumbai, Bandra - St. Stanislaus, St. Peter: A migrant relief camp has been started in the Stanislaus school. Provision was made for a total of 100 men and 25 women. The whole area was sanitized and set up with beddings, toilet kits, material for cooking etc Thus far, 73 migrants have been brought here by the
BMC and the police. Their health is being monitored by doctors from Bhabha hospital and Holy Family hospital. A lot of care is being taken to maintain a congenial, friendly atmosphere and ensure that the migrants have some form of social life while maintaining the rules of social distancing. To help them earn
something, they are engaged in making face shields, a work which fetches them a sum of about Rs 100 -150 per day. In addition to this, volunteers from the parish have tied up with an NGO and are supplying 500 packets of food every day to the nearby slum areas.
Mumbai, Churchgate - St. Xavier Institute of Education Society: Through the group 'Mumbairesponds',
the Jesuit community identified families in need of rations at Machhimarnagar, Colaba. They provided 30 families with a kit each containing 5 kg rice, 5 kg flour, 1 kg pulses, 1 kg oil, 1kg salt and one bathing soap. 16 families with a physical handicapped person in the family were also provided with a similar kit. Efforts are made to help migrants get access to rations in different parts of the city. Every morning, tea and biscuits are provided to at least nine homeless persons at the Oval Ground.
Mumbai, Fort - St. Xavier College: SXC community sent 1000 food bags to Dharavi (each bag contained provisions sufficient for a family of 5, for 10 days). This was distributed through the local Asst. Municipal Commissioner. Food rations have also been supplied to 500 families through the Urja Foundation and 'Meals for the Needy' project. Face masks, sanitary napkins and soap have been supplied to slum areas. SXC has also supplied 2,000 plastic face visors and 100 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Mumbai Police, to help them with personal protection. Medical supplies have been donated to the Kasturba Hospital. Financial assistance has also been given to cover the Covid testing of 10 people and the cost of 5000 oral rehydration kits. Donations have also been sent to MPSM/Holy Cross, the PM Cares fund and the CM's Relief fund. In collaboration with the BMC, a quarantine centre has been set up in the college with a total capacity of 150 beds.
Mumbai, Mahim - St. Xavier Inst. Of Engineering: 19 migrant workers who are stranded in Mumbai have been given accommodation on the XIE campus. All their needs are being taken care of. 150 bags of Rice, Dal, Oil and Flour rice and dal have been bought and given to the local authorities for distribution among needy families. The vehicle of the institution has obtained a long-term pass for emergency relief work and has provided valuable service in ferrying those who are stranded. Assistance has also been provided to many others who need to obtain a pass for emergency travel.
Mumbai, Mazagaon - St. Anne Church, St. Mary Schools: Parish zone coordinators have identified needy families. The parish is helping out with food provisions that are being distributed in the zones. Food packets are being delivered to the nearby slums. Provisions were provided to 70 bakery workers
who were stranded without work or money. Rs 50,000/- has been given to Holy Cross/MPSM for their relief work. Donations have also been made to Snehasadan and to CHAI.
Nandurbar - Jan Seva Mandal: The institution has sponsored 100 kits of Personal Protective Equipment
(PPE). 90 kits were given to the Police department and 10 to the Civil hospital. The cost of this is Rs. 95,000/- Trips have been made to ten villages in the taluka and awareness sessions were given on hygiene and preventive measures. 1000 masks and 1152 pieces of soap were distributed to the villagers. Rs 1,00,000/- has been given to the CM Fund.
Nashik - MPSM and Holy Cross Church: MPSM has been officially registered with the Nashik Municipal Corporation to help with relief work. Holy Cross and MPSM are collaborating with a Students' association 'Chhatrabharati', distributing food packets to stranded migrant workers and daily wage laborers. They are
also spreading awareness about hygiene, precaution and social distancing. MPSM is working in close collaboration with the local police, Municipality and Tehsildars to ensure that vulnerable groups who fall outside the scope of government schemes also get the assistance they require. This is a massive effort
across Nashik city and the talukas of Trimbak, Peth and Surgana. Thus far, 2425 families have been helped (comprising over 12,000 people). MPSM Nashik and MPSM Ambatha have been designated as Centres for Relief Services.
Nashik - Infant Jesus Shrine: Three migrant workers who were stranded have been given shelter. All their needs are being taken care of. Additionally, financial support has been given to MPSM/Holy Cross
for their efforts. Support is also given to Nashik Diocese. Shirpur - VMS: 100 families who had migrated to Gujarat for jobs have returned to Maharashtra. VMS has provided 5 days ration kit to these 100 families.
Talasari - Gnanmata Sadan and Uplat: Gnanmata Sadan has obtained a travel pass from the local authorities. They are providing food packets to the needy in 22 villages. A total of about 250 families
have been helped. Financial help and provisions have also been given to the workers of the institute. The Institution has offered the local authorities use of the school buildings and playgrounds for any relief-related needs. At Uplat, five migrant workers have been given accommodation on the campus and all
their needs are being taken care of.
Tara - Janhit Vikas: Through the animators, 67 families were identified as being in need. An arrangement was made with a grocer. Janhit Vikas has paid the grocer for food provisions and has given slips to the families who then collect these provisions from the grocer.
Vasai - Ambadi Road: Parishioners and the Youth group have reached out to poor families in the parish
irrespective of religious affiliation. There is also a huge outreach effort to assist migrants who assemble at Sun City daily as they wait for their trains. The parish provides them with water bottles and biscuits. The parish youth have also teamed up with an NGO to provide meals to these migrants.
We are aware that a terrible tragedy is unfolding in our midst. In the face of the intense and prolonged suffering of the poor, our efforts seem but a tiny drop in the ocean. Still, we continue doing the best we can. The Lord entered human history on the side of the poor and continues to act on their behalf through the compassion, courage and generosity we witness today. For our part, we offer up our five loaves and two fish. May the Lord bless and multiply these efforts.
30 May 2020