ASIA/INDONESIA – More than 120 Catholic religious who died of Covid in 2021: “They did not hold back”

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Jakarta – More than 120 consecrated Catholics died from January to September 2021 because of Covid-19 in Indonesia. They were infected in the exercise of their mission of pastoral care, spiritual assistance, care and accompaniment of the sick and the suffering.
“The Indonesian Catholic Church is paying a very high price for its frontline commitment to bringing care and hope. We have a serious concern for all consecrated persons in our country, who give themselves completely, without fear. The Lord sends us vocations to consecrated life, but it takes many years to form new religious and consecrated persons”, says to Fides Father Joseph Kristanto Suratman, of the Commission for Seminaries, within the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia. According to the Indonesian Catholic portal Sesawi.net, the large number of victims among the religious represents a huge loss for the Catholic Church of Indonesia. “And the number of victims could increase further”, he notes.
Fr. Kristanto reminds Fides of the great commitment and long duration of formation to accompany and follow the path of cultural and spiritual growth of seminarians and consecrated persons: “For a boy who enters the minor Seminary – he reports – takes at least 11-14 years to complete his studies until he is ordained a priest”.
For the nuns, Sister Gabriella, teacher of the Augustinian novices in Pontianak, in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, notes to Fides that “at least three years of initial formation are needed, including one year of postulancy and two years of novitiate”. Formation “is not just a question of time and money: it is also a question of feelings and contact with one’s inner world”, explains the nun. Speaking of the huge number of deaths among religious and consecrated persons during the pandemic, Sister Gabriella expresses her deep concern: “We hope and pray that this Covid-19 pandemic ends as soon as possible so that we can resume our normal life again. We are in the hands of God, but our mission continues, despite the difficulties that we are encountering at this time”. If we extend the investigation to churches and communities of other denominations present in Indonesia, more than 200 church leaders and Christian pastoral workers have died from the Covid, while 605 Muslims have died. The very nature of their mission, which may require trips to various communities or commitment to hospitals, schools, social centers, exposes them to the virus. “Yet they did not hold back: they remained close to the faithful when they needed it, giving their lives”, concludes Sister Gabriella.