At Virtual Prayer Meeting, South African Nun Urges Women to “become life giving”

Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, Secretary General Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
Credit: Public Domain

At an online prayer meeting organized to express solidarity with women who are suffering from solitude and isolation occasioned by COVID-19 restrictions, the South African Nun at the helm of Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has urged women who are part of organizations to foster spiritual solidarity and share “life giving” experiences amid coronavirus challenges.

“I would call on you as women to stop sharing things that block growth and life giving,” SACBC Secretary General, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro said during the August 24 Zoom meeting.

Sr. Hermenegild added, “It is a call to all women organizations that we unite in prayer; that we become life giving to each other; that we bridge the isolation that has been created by COVID-19.”

Organized by the leadership of the South African Union of Catholic Women’s Organization (SAUCWO) under the theme, “I can’t Breathe,” the August 24 afternoon prayer meeting brought together participants drawn from different regions of Southern Africa. 

“Breath takes on a new significance” during the pandemic as everyone wears face masks and “many of us feel that we cannot breathe properly. ,” Sr. Hermenegild said referencing the theme of the virtual prayer meeting.

“The same applies to social distancing,” she said and added in reference to the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. But in the time of COVID-19 we are forced to maintain social distance from each other, and in fact to have personal contact as seldom as possible, only when necessary.”

Highlighting some of the COVID-19 related challenges specific to women, the South African nun said, “For the first time, some of you had 24-hour supervision of your kids; it was not easy at all. At the same time, it was good that you could be with your kids.”

“For 24 hours having your husband around the house, at times you did not know what to do with him. But at the same time, it was good may be after many years you could bond with your husband,” she further said.

She added, “I can’t breathe, as there was a feeling of isolation experienced during this time. The loneliness we all experienced during this time.”

On reported cases of gender-based violence during the lockdown period in South Africa, Sr. Hermenegild said that women are “ashamed to talk about what is going on in the bedroom” and that they instead “put heavy makeup on the scars that (they) receive in the bedroom.” 

“Today we can even associate the symptoms of COVID–19 with the punches that I receive in my bedroom, because I feel ashamed to talk about what really eats me up,” she said and continued, “We avoid going to report the abuse; we would rather keep quiet. I am avoiding the kind of questions that I will be asked, embarrassing questions.”

Unfortunately, the SACBC Secretary General noted, instead of women supporting each other through the hardships, “we exert pressure on one another that ‘We can’t breathe’; we suffocate one another.” 

“Groups like women sodalities become ‘Competing Sites’ instead of being a sanctuary where women can share freely as they know they will be helped, listened to and given a chance to breathe,” she lamented further. 

As a way forward, Sr. Hermenegild urged women in Southern Africa to “stand up and be the voice of our fellow women, our sisters; women rooted in prayer.”

She added, “You should be in a position to create that holy, safe space where every woman can stand naked in front of each other; tell her story so that you can become her mouthpiece; create a sanctuary where a fellow woman knows I am respected and taken seriously by all members.”

“As women, we can be open to one another. Do share your difficulties; share your inner feelings; let us put shame aside,” the Secretary General of SACBC said during the August 24 virtual prayer meeting.


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