“What started as some exotic disease in the Far East quickly became a reality which directly affected our fraternity.” Thus spoke Friar Andrés QUESADA SOTO, in his chronicle of the San Antonio de Padua Friary in San Salvador, El Salvador. The friary is part of the Provincial Custody of Mary, Mother of Mercy in Central America.
As soon as the health crisis began in El Salvador, we were taken by surprise when our confrere Friar Javier Ernesto GUERRA was confined to one of the government’s quarantine centers. We went through days of anguish for him and for the whole fraternity.
For us, the pandemic has become more than the discomfort of staying at home or dealing with the new normal of virtual classes and social distancing. It has brought us pain, fear and uncertainty about the health of our friends and relatives. We share the distress of many of our brothers and sisters in our Parish of Jesús de las Misericordias [Jesus of Mercies] who have been infected by the new virus. We have even mourned the deaths of some of them. In addition, messages of support come to us almost daily from the Conference of Religious of El Salvador, communicating the death of some consecrated person.
In addition to the difficult situation caused by this health crisis, there are also political difficulties and disagreements in the country, as well as the damage inflicted by tropical storms “Amanda” and “Cristobal”. Several families in the parish community lost everything due to flooding. The friars were present in that situation, too, particularly Friar Erick Gerardo MARÍN CARBALLO, who tried to bring relief to those families.
Here, the pandemic has a face. As one confrere said, “We always live near sister death, but we remain united in the face of these difficulties. It is just as St. Paul says: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned’”(2Cor 4:8-9).
However, it is not all bad news. We have learned to more deeply value the time we spend together and to discover meaning in the details of daily life. We celebrate with more care and awareness the little joys of each day: an anniversary, a profession, the recovery of a loved one, our fraternal evening in community on Fridays, or pupusas (a Salvadoran dish) on Sundays. We have also discovered new talents and have found the courage to put them at the service of the community. Necessity has made us more creative.
We continue to pray, smile, work and dream. Life continues and is renewed in ways we never expected, because “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17: 3). In the midst of this pandemic, we are recognizing that a little more.
Friar Andrés QUESADA SOTO