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After the new year festivities and our annual retreat, all seemed promising that the year 2020 would be marvelous. Only few people knew that 2020 had many surprises in store for us!

As per our custom in the formation house, we plan the semester on the last day of our retreat. We had our program in place till July. New year classes kicked off on the 17th of February, and our 10 SVD theology students were in high spirits to attend classes at ITESP (Instituto de Ensino Superior de São Paulo). But their joy was short-lived: classed grounded down exactly after a month. The pandemic hit São Paulo and the country at large. Classes went on-line from March 16th on. We saw allover a sudden our formation program crumble down.

We had to readjust to the new reality of staying indoors and doing basically everything from inside. We canceled our pastoral activities and reduced our movement outside the gate to the minimum. Only the co-formator Matias would go out when necessary, to buy food stuffs for the house.

Following a directive from the Provincial Procurator, all workers discontinuing their duties during the pandemic and with sadness we let-go off our cook. That implied that we had to become our own cooks. This made us discover the culinary talents of each other. Every day, two confreres were scheduled to make meals. It became fun as we saw different dishes on table: sometimes too salty, sometimes overcooked, etc. Such an episode was reason enough for confreres to create jokes, but creativity was the key-word as the stay-indoor environment persisted. We became inventive. We discovered that some of us were excellent bakers!

We had to boost up our internet connection in order to maximize its utility. During the pandemic, all of us were logged in participating in online classes. When the signal falls, this became an issue to resolve for the formators in order for the students to attend well their classes. We finally bought new equipment to boost up the internet signal.

Since weekend apostolates were cancelled, we came up with one invention: home-theatre. Our sitting room turned into a cinema-hall on weekend evenings. One of the students would choose some movies from Netflix which would be voted for watching. The home gym that was rarely frequented before the pandemic, now became a point of reference as confreres were adding weight!

The formation house, which is within the SVD Arnold Janssen Parish, served as a transmission station of parish liturgical celebrations- mass and adoration. We used simple gadgets to transmit mass to the faithful through social medias (Facebook and Youtube). The students really got involved on this, and they created a Youtube account for this transmission. Some apostolates remained active online: youth apostolate, communication and catechesis. Students would prepare talks and even some drama clips online. It was worthy to note here that the students revived one “amateur video production” they´d followed before. The students teamed up to produce clips to animate the parishioners during the pandemic. This serie was called “Verbalizando” and can be found on youtube. The new Productions kept them busy.

The Final vows of two confreres (Ilídio and Marco Antônio) had to be done in the house without the usual participation of the parishioners. This special day was also transmitted online. Anyway, as we said: the COVID 19 helped us to discover new talents and ministries in our Theologate!

Fr. Thaddeus Obuya, SVD - Prefect-Theologate House, São Paulo - Brazil.

Posted in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota”- September 2020