The Catholic Men’s Group of Malacca Johore Diocesan Commission for Family, Laity and Life held a webinar titled “The Post-Pandemic Man”. The presenter, Deacon Prof Dr Sherman Kuek, shares a summary of his speech presented on April 24, 2022.
April 29, 2022
The purpose of this conference is to informally share the impact I experienced from the pandemic and how I reacted to this impact. This is not to prescribe a particular way to react, because all of our lives have their own particularities and we must react creatively, according to the uniqueness of our circumstances and our respective roles.
Like everyone else, my first concern was financial, since I had no other source of income than the apostolate activities that I had been carrying out for years, the income from these activities supported my family and my fellow missionaries. I had to find creative ways to support myself, my family, and my missionary community by looking for ways to hold on. One way was to explore online entrepreneurship platforms selling small things that could inspire people’s faith but were cheap enough for people to buy.
The other way was to look for ways to make short-term investments with average returns to provide sufficient cash flow. I was also concerned about the financial difficulties experienced by the people around me. I tried to use as much of my financial resources as possible to help families who were suffering and to support the business endeavors of friends who were trying to survive. The lesson I learned from this experience is that we cannot take God’s financial providence for granted. Everything we have comes from God, and we should be good stewards of his gifts and resources.
My next concern was how to support myself, my family, and my family spiritually, since we were in a major lockdown and there were no sacraments accessible. I didn’t want my family to watch Masses celebrated online because I wanted to avoid a possible misperception that we were actually attending Masses just because we were watching them in front of the television. But I made it a point to keep talking to my family, especially my young son, about God and the Church. When there were occasions and requests, I brought the Eucharist from the Church to people’s homes, prayed with them, gave them the opportunity to adore the Blessed Sacrament and gave them communion.
I dedicated many days to this work during the worst times of the pandemic. I also did it for my family. I also spent a lot of time reflecting and praying to discern what God was telling us/me about the pandemic. The lesson I learned was the importance of spiritual discernment in recognizing the timing and the guidance of God in responding to crises.
The other concern was about my role as deacon and teacher of the faith. Being very in touch with people, I was concerned when many of them expressed how much they missed the Eucharist. I discussed it with the parish priest and received his blessing to bring the Eucharist from door to door. Standing outside the doors of people’s homes (sometimes in the hot sun, and sometimes in the rain), people worshiped the Blessed Sacrament while I held the monstrance in front of them. I usually ended with the blessing and gave them communion if they asked. The other aspect that many people lacked was the breaking of the Word. In immediate response to this need, I wrote a few booklets of about 5,000 words each and began to distribute them electronically, so that people could read them and be edified. These pamphlets were meant to guide them on how to stay spiritually alive during the pandemic. I also started several religious training series using online platforms, starting with YouTube. I began systematically teaching the Catholic faith by producing an ongoing series of monthly videos uploaded to an online learning interface. I also started to conduct monthly reflections on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary using Zoom.
For the parish, I organized RCIA courses and also monthly religious training for BEC coordinators, via Zoom. On top of that, I spent two intensive months writing a whole catechism book for parents to take home, so they could study it and teach their children about the faith. The book is an extension of the Malaysian Catechetical Series and covers topics in more detail. This book is now a standard text for our catechism ministry and is also used for the RCIA. On top of that, I spent several hours a week meeting people online to listen to their issues and give advice to the best of my ability.
As a deacon and brother in faith to people in our Catholic community, another lesson I have learned from this pandemic is that it is important to look outside of ourselves and be available to love. and reach out to people, even in times of trouble. We need to find practical ways to do something using the talents and resources God has given us.
Another aspect that I think has been a challenge for many during the pandemic was the relationships in our families. Being in lockdown meant we had to share confined spaces with each other and support each other’s habits. This unprecedented closeness meant we got agitated more easily, and because of the stress of change and adjustment, family members were more sensitive and flustered.
On top of that, I realized that my eleven year old son was watching me 24 hours a day because there was nowhere for him or me to go! It looked at how I was responding to the pandemic and whether I was leading a good and responsible life. It challenged me to constantly examine the example I was for my son. Our time together also meant that we had ample opportunity to have fruitful conversations about his life, his development, his faith, and about the world and life in general. I’m sure he enjoyed the time we spent together over those two years.
The essential lesson I have learned from this aspect of the pandemic is that as husband and father, as well as son and brother, I must intentionally and consciously be the head of my family, and that this obligation is especially important during critical times in my family’s life.