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Faith, not fear: Connection is the cure

First in a series of articles suggesting hopeful ways of coping with the coronavirus pandemic

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Editor’s note: “Be not afraid” — these words are repeated in the Bible countless times. But as we live through an unprecedented moment in history, with nearly all of humanity paralyzed, fearful, sick or dying from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s good to be reminded: We are people of faith, not fear. This occasional series will gather the experiences, musings, suggestions and advice of local Catholics on how to survive these trying times with faith, not fear.

As the talk rapidly turns into a state of emergency, I think we should press the “pause” button. What do we feel? Fear, panic, distress – these are natural feelings that arise when we encounter the unknown. In this case, it is a virus that threatens more than our physical health. By forcing us into “social distancing,” it threatens to unravel the social threads that hold us together.

This experience brings me flashbacks of my first year at home after traveling on mission with Amor en Acción. I emphasize the distinction between traveling on mission and transforming into a missionary. The truth is I didn’t understand what Jesus was calling me to “do” or to “see” as I encountered my dear brothers and sisters when I first went on mission.

Janelle Jay, mission coordinator for Amor en Acción, outside one of her favorite mission sites in the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2019.

Photographer:

Janelle Jay, mission coordinator for Amor en Acción, outside one of her favorite mission sites in the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2019.

But the mission itself changed me in many ways. It enabled me to learn to simply “be,” to accompany and share with the other. To share God’s love through a hug, a smile, a common prayer. Going on mission taught me about community; to pay attention to the little things. Mission transformed me from a distant, seemingly flighty person to someone who wanted to be present, to listen to others, to share in the little things.

A few months after I returned, my high school class was assigned to read The Plague by Albert Camus. I probably read about 50-75 pages when I felt it was too much. I couldn’t read about a society in which people don’t pay attention to each other until disaster strikes. I couldn’t emotionally handle continuing to read about this type of place after my experience on mission. I would rather fail a few quizzes.

When I approached my English teacher about this decision, she suggested that I stop going on mission. That’s when I realized that some people might never understand my experience. Some people will let fear govern them, keep them from living and connecting. And I realized this was the mission-in-reverse at work. Mission-in-reverse is understanding how our experiences on mission change us — not so much the people we go to “help.”

Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid” how many times?

That is not to say we should be careless in these times.

But we are given so many blessings — tools — we cannot even count them. We just need to remember them: doctors with talents; medicines that exist; vaccines that will be developed; methods of communication that allow us to connect and learn in ways our grandparents could only imagine.

In Amor en Acción, we are embracing this challenge to connect in a new way —by making our mission preparation process go virtual. We can still get together, see each other, share, learn, grow, pray. We have an opportunity to connect in another way.

As we encounter the unknown, I invite you to intentionally make the sign of the cross. As we cross ourselves vertically, we look up at God while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. As we cross ourselves horizontally, we think about the people to our right and left, our community. And how one smile, one Facetime call to check in, one virtual meeting: these connections can cure us all. 

About Janelle Jay

Janelle Jay is the mission coordinator for Amor en Acción. Born and raised in Miami, she has been traveling on mission and leading groups since 2005. She speaks English, Spanish and French. She studied business at Northeastern University and received her MBA from the University of Florida. She worked as a commission and legislative aide to Commissioner Xavier Suarez for four years and believes that everyone should devote some time to public service. She is passionate about the arts, politics, public service, real estate and travel.

Comments from readers

Sue DeFerrari - 04/03/2020 01:06 PM
Great reflection Janelle! This is our new mission field! Peace on the journey... Sue DeFerrari, MorningStar Renewal Center

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