“I want to pray for all of the priests, the creativity of priests who think of a thousand ways to be with the people so that the people don’t feel alone.”
Pope Francis in his 15 March Angelus address.
As the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, normal life in increasingly disrupted. Restrictions on mass gatherings are now a global phenomenon with many libraries, museums, restaurants and schools closing. We’ve been told to wash our hands much more and see people much less, leaving our homes only when necessary.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has encouraged us to get creative with the ways that we reach out to others in our community. At this time of uncertainty and possible social isolation, the people of God in Melbourne and beyond are invited to lead the way in loving and caring for each other and for those vulnerable people in our communities (while social distancing).
It's a time when each of the baptised should intentionally commit to this affirmative action during the coronavirus pandemic. Some are calling this the ‘Me & You + 2’ response. This simply means: take care of yourself and your loved ones, and one other potentially vulnerable person. Everyone--young, old and in-between has this calling and capacity.
Fortunately, our digital age provides a raft of ways to reach out and love our neighbour during the threat of Coronavirus. Here are some suggestions:
Make a call
‘Every hand we don’t shake must become a phone call we make’. Be generous with phone calls, text messages, emails with photos, Facetime, WhatsApp. Kids, call your parents and grandparents; parents and grandparents, call your children and grandchildren. It's especially important to take the time to call people in your life who you might not speak to very often.
Send a letter
Tried and true ways are also necessary. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing with friends and family in addition to phone calls and FaceTime. Send get well cards, letters and if you feel particularly artistic, try sending a drawing.
Do the shopping
Get in touch with elderly or vulnerable people in your community and offer help with their shopping. Ensuring they have adequate provisions in this time is one of the most valuable acts of service you can offer.
Join or set up a volunteer help group
During this time when supermarket shelves are often empty, community groups are springing up across Facebook finding ways to provide excess food supplies and toilet paper to people who need it, and providing up to date information on shops that still carry stock of various items.
Local business owners are our neighbours too, and while national corporations will be able to weather these rough times, smaller businesses may struggle over the next few weeks. Where you can, shop local.
Fight the hoarding impulse
Over-stockpiling leads to a shortage of essential provisions for more vulnerable communities that don't have the means or opportunity. Buy in moderation, so others are also able to meet their needs.
Ask how you can help
Check in with neighbours and people who may be socially isolated and ask how you can help. Particularly if you’re in a lower-risk group, reach out to people in your community and see what you can do. It might be picking up groceries or prescriptions or offer a chat, or a photo to make them smile. These "Kindness cards" templates
can be used to drop in your neighbours' letterboxes.
Create care packages
With members of your parish, create care packages for people in your community who are isolated, especially those who may suffer financial strain over the coming weeks.
These suggestions are aimed at inspiring action. Feel free to expand or adapt it for use at the local level and incorporate a community database with names of those needing assistance. However you go about loving your neighbour, together and individually we can create a strong web of love to hold and care for everyone as this crisis unfolds.“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my members of my family you did to me.” Matt 25: 40 NRSV
We’ll keep updating these lists throughout the week. If you have any more ideas about how to help your local community, please let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include them here.