Worship in COVID times
An Apocalyptic Time

By Sainana Tamatawale

The year 2020 was one of the most difficult and stressful years in the history of the last hundred years of the world and the church!

In Christmas 2019, I already had my plans and schedule set for 2020. The excitement, joy and happiness of the New Year suddenly became sad, stressful and even frightening as the Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout the world. It reached the U.S./Mexico border in March 2020, and our 2020 plans were cancelled or postponed. It was difficult to accept and adjust to the new forms, new ways, and new realties in order to survive: cancellation of Mass and sacraments, lockdowns, no classes, unemployment, travel restrictions, government and health department regulations and protocols that needed to be followed.

Worship in COVID timesAll these new norms, protocols and lockdowns made many people feel afraid, hopeless, frightened, stressed out, and depressed. Covid-19 caused people to stay home; no school, no work, limitations on everything. I found myself on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, with my fellow Columban, Father Bill Morton, in a poor area called Rancho Anapra. As days of lockdowns passed, the poor became poorer and the suffering more intense.

In Rancho Anapra, we continued to serve the poor and the migrants, the most vulnerable in our community. The missionary spirit in me would not let me to stay home on lockdown but pushed me to go out to serve those in need. I followed all the Covid protocols and regulations and always prayed before I went out, asking for Gods protection from being infected by the virus and other accidents and to give me the courage, strength, patience and passion to serve the most vulnerable. I experienced God’s presence, love, and compassion during this Covid -19 year because I didn’t come down with the virus after being in contact with people that were positive. I had the Covid test four times and was negative for each. I thanked God for His protection over me.

It was the most challenging and stressful year I have ever experienced in many years as a long-term Columban Lay missionary. By the grace of God and in faith, hope and charity I survived the year 2020. After an evening Mass one day, Fr. Bill and I shared about the many struggles in our community, the many deaths, violence, poverty and uncertainty. I said I felt we are weighed down with such suffering and he told me, “yes, we are in an apocalyptic time.” I reflected on our sharing that evening. In taking the risk to be courageous and serve the vulnerable during this pandemic, I learned and have learnt that we don’t only serve the poor. We serve Christ in the poor, because we see in the suffering poor the suffering Christ and the suffering poor see in us as the hopeful Christ. By sharing love with the poor and the migrants we are actually evangelizing to the poor and bearing witness to them.

I am so grateful to all the benefactors for your prayers and financial support which helps us on the mission field, especially the Columban Border Mission team here in Anapra, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. Your generosity and love help me, Fr. Bill, and several very active parishioners who collaborate with us in doing God’s mission work to serve the poor, the hungry and the migrant. You benefactors are part of our team in doing God’s mission by your support and prayers. Thank you all so much for your love, care and support. I pray that God will shower His blessings on you and your families.

Columban lay missionary Sainiana Tamatawale lives and works in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.