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Before-COVID and Post-COVID

Diary - In So Many Words

In So Many Words

By Fr. Michael Riordan

I suspect that in future years rather than BC and AD we will have BC and PC (Before-COVID and Post- COVID) as this “experience” has had immense effects on all aspects of our lives. To be honest, living in Jeju (Jeju Island is the largest island in South Korea, located in the Jeju Province) has meant that I have had to put up with little disruption of my daily life. Here we have not been under lockdown and while funerals and weddings, for the most part, have been cancelled or low key in the Churches; outside things seem very much as before COVID. While kindergartens were due to close, ours (and I presume others too) was asked to run a skeleton staff to facilitate families where both parents were working. This resulted in about a 75% attendance rate of kids; we were for all intents and purposes open for business.

While society seemed to continue on as normal in many ways, the Churches seemed to have lost their role in society. The Churches provide space for community but were told by the government not to allow large groups of people to gather causing the cancellation of Masses and ceremonies.

From my limited reading of the “lives of the Saints,” in former years when a disease or plague struck, the Church or at least some of its members were in the forefront of taking care of the sick, being with the dying and burying the dead. Those who carried out this great work became acknowledged as Saints. In this pandemic, the Churches have been, more or less, told “to keep out of the way.” The new saints for the most part are the health workers of all and no religion.

The new saints for the most part are the health workers of all and no religion.

On Jeju, we are enjoying the cleaner air and reduced pollution as well as the freer roads due to lack of tourists coming to the island. This of course has financial and social repercussions for those depending on tourism for their income.

In Isidore, on the other side the farm, our feed mill, kindergarten, hospice and nursing home are still providing needed services and employment, which will become even more important as the country (and the island) tries to find an alternative economic development model; it seems improbable that we can continue with the “before COVID” model.

the pandemic raises a huge number of issues for the Church and Society and, I think, we should be proactive in deciding the future direction rather than waiting to see what happens and allow “the powers that be” try to return (probably unsuccessfully) to the before-COVID systems and structures. I think it is a “Kairos” moment for Church and Society.

Fr. Michael Riordan lives and works in South Korea.