My beloved aunt and godmother is 95 and living in a locked-down senior care
facility. I haven’t been able to see her in 9 months. Thank you, COVID19.
I’m sure many of us have similar stories.
Masks and lock-downs, Zoom and closures. The hope for a vaccine. At times it
seems we haven’t spoken of much else in a very long time. And maybe there’s not
much about the pandemic that hasn’t been said at this point.
Two hours of UN TV on the subject the other day yielded nothing new, except to
reaffirm that COVID19 is the greatest global health crisis we face, and that it is
also a humanitarian crisis, a socio-economic one, a security issue and a human rights
crisis. Recent webinars have shown clearly how the pandemic intersects with almost
every issue we could think of: COVID and Human Rights, How COVID Impacts the
UN’s 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals, COVID and the Lack of
Adequate Social Protection, etc.
And of course COVID and Homelessness. We five Vincentian Family NGOs (CM,
DC, AIC, SSVP and the SC Federation) hosted a webinar on Cities and Evictions
during the Pandemic, attended by 53 other NGOs. It is worth noting here that a
group of Niagara University students presented us with excellent research on the
issue that we will be able to use in future events.
So this is the context of the special season of Advent in this difficult year many
of us would rather forget. However, maybe the Advent message this year calls us
to see beyond how COVID19 affects us, reminding us that others are suffering
much more than we, and that we should not forget other tragedies accompanying
the virus. Advent is a time of waiting and yearning, not passively, but in an active
sense, that of preparing ourselves for something. Or in this case, Someone, to be
born again in our hearts and lives.
As always, with anything truly Christian, that means being aware of others, being
compassionate, and where possible acting with them in mind. Although we should
see and think globally, we should also see and act locally. Advent in this context
can be an opportunity for a bit of advocacy.
Consider schoolchildren living in poverty, who do not have the laptops necessary for
virtual learning, and are falling behind schoolmates of greater means. Is there a
local way to address this need?
We might encourage the people we serve to donate to, or work with, foodbanks as
food insecurity grows.
We can speak up when others discriminate against people of Asian origin by
unfairly blaming them for the pandemic.
We can participate in advocacy efforts to end the alarming spike in domestic
violence as claustrophobic “staying at home” takes a toll.
We could call or write our Congressional and local lawmakers to advocate for:
An immediate end to the cruel practice of housing evictions during a
A much-needed stimulus relief package and continuance of unemployment
Changes in public policy to strengthen protection systems people need and
want now that the virus has revealed them to be totally inadequate;
A fair distribution of a vaccine, when fully tested and available. Perhaps
there will be pledges to sign calling for equity in this regard.
The congregation is a global community. How can we show solidarity with
developing countries, especially where confreres work, as they face the tragedies
of this virus but without the resources and possibilities of wealthier countries?
Advent, a time of prayerful expectant waiting. But also a time of compassionate
outreach for those who suffer most at this time, a great way to prepare and open
our hearts to celebrate the Birth of the One who is Love Incarnate.
NOTE: Others might contribute to this indicative, non-exhaustive list, helping us
all to be aware of pandemic issues and needs beyond our own.
NGO representative of the CM @ the UN
FB: congregation of the mission at the UN