At the beginning of quarantine, we were told to begin social distancing. As the weeks went on, my actions stayed the same, but my terminology changed to “physical distancing.” This subtle change more accurately described how I was living. I am never closer than six feet from most people I know including friends and family, but I am still social and still connected.
This was my experience of the recent MISEVI-USA Gathering. Before COVID-19, the members of MISEVI-USA had planned to meet for our annual gathering in Denver, CO, to celebrate Mary Frances and Bill Jaster’s retirement from Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. Because we could not all safely travel there, we met by Zoom. We were joined by the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, Vincentian Service Corps – West, Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati, St. John’s University, Vincentian Volunteers UK, and Vincentian Mission Corps. Meeting virtually had an unexpected benefit: MISEVI members who wouldn’t have been able to join us in Denver because it was too far away were able to join us for the gathering.
Fr. Tom Esselman, C.M. spoke with us about Pope Francis’s vision of the Catholic Church as a people of God as missionary disciples. He said, “The church is the Pilgrim People of God who, through their encounter with God in Jesus, are called to be missionary disciples carrying forth the joy of the gospel, going out to the margins, especially to the poor.” It was an inspiring talk that invited us to reflect on what this vision means for us and what we ourselves can contribute to it as a Vincentian Family. It felt timely to imagine what church community now means when most of us are not able to gather together in ways we are used to.
Our MISEVI group couldn’t gather physically, but our connection still felt very meaningful. If anything, our connections matter even more now that we have to be physically distanced. We are relying on the community we worked to build before COVID-19, and we will move through this uncertain time together.
As Vincentians we strive to “do what must be done.” Despite the changes COVID-19 has brought, we are doing what must be done and continuing with the most important part of our lives: our relationships.