Updated: August 03, 2021 07:05 AM GMT
Dominican sisters board a bus as they set off to serve Covid-19 patients at hospitals in Bien Hoa. (Photo: giaophanxuanloc.net)
Eighty nuns from various congregations in Dong Nai province, one of Vietnam’s Covid-19 epicenters, have volunteered to work as frontline workers at field hospitals and quarantine centers for Covid-19 patients at Xuan Loc Diocese’s request.
They received training in computer skills and offering psychological advice and health care to patients for days before setting off last week as most of them work at church-run daycare centers.
Sister volunteers in groups serve people in isolated areas, offer medical checkups to coronavirus suspects, vaccinate people, take test samples from communities and receive health declarations. Those who process data input on computers have to work in shifts around the clock so that authorities can find infections and move them to hospitals or quarantine facilities.
Others deliver food to patients, clean facilities and collect medical waste. They are required not to give any information on their working places to outsiders.
The sisters are highly appreciated by local health authorities for their witness of love. Dr. Lan Anh from Bien Hoa Health Center said staff members in local quarantine areas are inspired by the vital services and friendly attitude of the religious volunteers who sometimes miss meals without complaint.
Medical students from other faiths find jubilation, gentleness and holiness among the sisters. “The nuns are good fairies sent to work with us during these hard times to fight the deadly pandemic,” one medical student said.
I am peaceful as God is with me; patients are my brothers and sisters who are in dire need of love and help from other people
A sister from the Maids of Jesus Priest congregation said she and other health workers in full protective gear took test samples from a community and she directly contacted five coronavirus infections on the first day.
She fears being infected with Covid-19 but “I am peaceful as God is with me; patients are my brothers and sisters who are in dire need of love and help from other people.”
Dominican Sister Kim Anh texted other sisters at her convent: “We learn shining examples of sacrifice to the community from doctors, nurses, drivers and other volunteers. Here we are not only givers but recipients.”
Some nuns are assigned to look after patients without respiratory problems at a school used as a quarantine facility. About 100 patients were moved to the three-story building within three days, and they all stay in closed classrooms.
They deliver daily food to patients and clean the building to contain the contagion. They also fill in for militiamen who suffer fever.
One sister texted her superior: “We have not a clue how to console patients here except for our humble service as they do not talk with one another.”
“We pray hard for them to feel God’s love presence and support among them. May God end the pandemic soon so that all people are reunited and live happy and peaceful lives,” she said.
The sisters try to bring joy to patients and save them from boredom, exhaustion and depression. They also help health workers relax and escape from the pressures of their work with words of encouragement and jokes after work.
Sister Anna Tran Thi Nguyet, general superior of Xuan Loc Lovers of the Holy Cross congregation, reminded religious volunteers that they are fighting in a war of life and death.
Sister Tran said many people have died of the dangerous Delta variant. Dying in this historic pandemic is a lonely death without loved ones and rituals. It is more tragic when children lose their fathers and mothers.
Blessed are you who have the opportunity to join frontline forces against the pandemic
The contagion has also lefts numerous people out of work and in utter misery.
“We try our best to save the life of each patient. If tomorrow we unfortunately get infected with Covid-19 due to our services, everyone will do everything to keep us alive,” she said in her letter to them.
She said Jesus’ apostles fear most a death without relating to their missions.
“Blessed are you who have the opportunity to join frontline forces against the pandemic. No matter what happens, you all grow up in the honor and glory of the Lovers of the Cross: Our honor is the Cross of Christ,” the superior said.
After daily work, sister volunteers return to a healthcare center run by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God in the city to rest and avoid community infection.
On July 31, four major seminarians and three priests from the diocese with one million Catholics set off to provide pastoral care to patients at two field hospitals.
The diocese is home to many economic zones that draw hundreds of thousands of migrant workers across the country
On July 29, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Tan Tuoc of Phu Cuong, which borders Xuan Loc, called on local Catholics to join a group of church volunteers to share the joint responsibility with the community and local governments.
Bishop Nguyen said volunteers will serve at hospitals and quarantine centers. They will register with local priests until Aug. 10 and be trained in necessary skills before they set off to serve Covid-19 victims in need.
He also asked local people to follow all health measures to maintain their good health and contain the pandemic. The diocese is home to many economic zones that draw hundreds of thousands of migrant workers across the country.
After successfully containing the disease for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has faced the fourth wave of the more stubborn Covid-19 outbreak since late April. It has reported 161,431 infections and 1,660 deaths in 62 out of 63 cities and provinces. Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces are the most stricken with over 123,000 cases.