This 2020 Lenten season, a global health crisis has emerged unlike any we've ever witnessed. As we've been told by public health officials, the single-most effective thing we can do to help prevent the spread of this disease is to wash our hands. Imagine then how difficult it must be for our Sisters and those they serve who don't have access to clean water to perform this task. This week, we're sharing an excerpt from Sister Carol Wetli, a missionary Sister in Nigeria who recently wrote home about her current situation. We'll continue to share updates from other Sisters on our website.
|Postulants help villagers fill their water containers
at the convent in Fugar.
Sisters and students at the Notre Dame Girls'
|Sister Fidelia Chukwa, Xavier University (Cincinnati) graduate and Provincial Leader of the Nigerian Province.|
|Workers install solar panels on the convent roof in Fugar (September 2006).|
I am currently in the Postulate House in a village in the middle belt of the country but will return soon to my community in Ilorin, close to the western border with Togo and a bit farther north. We are being told that the virus has still been contained in Lagos and Abuja. Both cities were infected by visitors from Europe and the U.S. though no one has yet died from it.
So far, the only change I notice around here is that some people are becoming more aware by trying to avoid handshakes. Other than that, life seems to be going on as normal. Church services continue with daily Mass, adoration every day during Lent from 5-6 pm, and Stations of the Cross 2x/week. Last Saturday at the Cathedraticum Mass, people were packed in the pews like sardines, and yet the Bishop told us just to bow to one another for the kiss of peace. A university about an hour from us dismissed its students last Friday in the middle of exams, while the teachers appear for work daily and are tested on entering. It has been rumored that the virus prefers a cooler environment. We are currently in the 90s everyday with high humidity, and our rainy season began in full force on March 1.
Many people do not even know the meaning of quarantine or, even less, self-quarantine. How can quarantine be managed in a village with a dense population and small houses all close together? There are so many diseases here with fever — Lassa fever, malaria, typhoid, and meningitis. Lassa fever is currently very high in our state, and we had our compound sprayed some time ago. The sanitation people came the next day to collect all the dead rats they could find. People are used to working and moving around, even with fevers.
Pray that Nigeria will be spared. With more than half the population of the U.S, crowded geographically into a country about 1 ½ times the size of the state of Texas, with limited medical care, we are very vulnerable.
Schools have been closed. Some high government officials have tested positive after they or their relatives returned from Europe. On top of all that, a man who had tested positive in Lagos attended a social event where hundreds of people were gathered. The virus is now in 6 states with a total of 46 cases. If we stay in quarantine here in the Postulate, we are 13 postulants, 3 professed sisters, a sister visiting until after Easter, and myself. So you can see I won't be bored. Our compound is large, quiet, and beautiful. Pray for us as we learn how to socially distance ourselves from others as all of you have been trying to do for some time.
During this Lenten season, we are most grateful for your support in helping our Sisters educate for life and provide clean water. Please know that the Sisters are praying for you and for all who are suffering from or challenged by these difficult times.
Making known God’s goodness with you,
Sister Marie Smith, SNDdeN
Clean Water for Life Volunteer