Sister Habiba Toma, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, runs the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Jordan.
The coronavirus epidemic and its spread in the world is a real danger; at the same time, it was a reason for all to work together, to sacrifice from the depths of their hearts, with sincerity and solidarity of all. The epidemic called us to return to service and think about others without exception — to discover “happiness in giving.”
Therefore, I personally seek along with my sisters and the health staff at the clinic to provide the best health services and preventive guidance to the clinic’s patients by providing all necessary precautions against the epidemic, with the support and collaboration of the Regional Director of CNEWA/PM, Ra’ed Al-Bahou.
We are taking some precautionary measures, including guiding patients to wash their hands frequently, wear gloves and masks, practice “social distancing” and disinfect surfaces, such as door handles.
The poor are the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. They cannot continue meeting their daily needs, and this leads them to feel hopeless, which often results in despair and suicide.
As dedicated nuns, our role is to be a sign of hope and a bridge for the poor, and to support those who were affected economically, psychologically and physically by this epidemic, so that the Gospel can continue to be personified over time. We do this by paying attention to the poor, the displaced and refugees, by helping them and receiving them with a smile and kindness, and meeting their medical, educational, and social needs.
The outbreak of the epidemic is a calamity to the whole world. At the same time, it makes a person contemplate the greatness and tenderness of the Lord.
The time of the epidemic is a time of revolution and faith, so that a person remembers that he is weak and arrogant and has no refuge except God. Our compassionate and merciful Father is able to make good out of evil, because he loves mankind and wants good.
It is a time to restore bonds of love, friendship, and faith with our Creator, and it can be a time of recovery if we look at it with an eye of faith and awareness. It is an opportunity to return to the self and review life, and a time to pray as one family due to the forced presence in homes. It is also a time to return to reading and learning.
There are those who remember God in calamities and fears — not by love, but by blame and grumbling, which stems from lack of faith in the Creator’s love for his children.
We can tell the people who suffer from the disease and its hardship that this epidemic is not a punishment from God, but rather a time to strengthen faith and trust in God. We can provide services with a smile and compassion and offer financial help, if possible. The patient should not be treated as dangerous, but as the same person we love and care about. Also: people need to maintain regular bedtime and healthy diets and focus on activities that make you feel happy.
This suffering has led to a kind of solidarity between religions. Here in Jordan, the government has taken all care and diligence to treat every citizen, regardless of their religion, nationality, social class, and even the displaced and refugees. Churches, mosques and public and private clinics were all sterilized. This epidemic has helped overcome differences between races and nationalities, helping people to recognize that everyone has one Father, God.
There is a deep and clear concern among many families to ensure their economic future, and the world has begun to realize the devastating economic impact. Because the epidemic affected the public and private sectors in ways that did not exist previously, it increased the unemployment rates, the rise in prices, and decreased production. The inevitable decline in production and trade will have painful consequences on families, in addition to the human suffering caused by the disease itself.
This epidemic has affected me personally in terms of feeling anxious, especially when touching things or getting close to anyone. If I become infected with the coronavirus, I will feel guilty because I will pass the infection on to others, especially the sisters who live with me. I continue asking God to protect my sisters and not cause any pain.
I keep thinking of our sisters in Iraq and their families, so I have been sending them all the preventive recommendations. Likewise, I was affected by not being able to go to church, especially during Holy Week and Easter due to curfew.
The epidemic has moved me to pray frequently and deeply to God and the Virgin Mary, asking them to lift the epidemic from the world. I pray that those who suffer will recover. I pray also for the dead, so that the Lord will have mercy on them. I pray that people will be granted patience and faith. I pray, too, for the clinic staff, for the sake of the country, and for the discovery of a vaccine.
While we are here on earth, we have to use our talents provided to us by God, and to offer these talents to serve the souls and the church for as long as we are able.