MAY 15 IS the International Day of Families, which was founded by the United Nations to serve as a reminder of the importance of family. This year, the Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, which has impacted over 220 countries, has prompted people to address the needs of families, particularly the disadvantaged.
In Hong Kong, low-income families are suffering from livelihood difficulties. They lack protective equipment and can lose their jobs at any time. A survey the by Caritas Hong Kong Community Development Service in March showed that the employment of over 50 per cent of working low-income people interviewed had been affected by the epidemic: some had been requested by employers to take unpaid leave; working hours had been reduced and thus income has decreased; some had even been fired. Data released by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of The Chinese University of Hong Kong in April showed that the household income of about 51 per cent of respondents had been reduced due to the epidemic.
Responding to the urgent needs of some families, Church groups have been engaged in charitable work. Among them, parishes and Caritas-Hong Kong, the Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs, the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have launched various services, including distributing protective equipment like masks, giving out relief items to the jobless and helping those families in need within each parish area.
The Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre also has a 24-hour hotline support service. The epidemic has caused a lot of emotional distress and the hotline service indicated that since late January, the centre has received nearly 400 related cases of emotional problems for their assistance. About 40 per cent of callers felt disturbed because their daily lives had been affected.
Regarding families in pain, what can the faithful do to offer physical, mental, social and spiritual support? How can they offer better spiritual support to their own families’?
In March, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the families unable to leave their homes and to show his concern for their anxieties. “Perhaps the farthest they can go is their … May they know how to find a way of communicating well, of building loving relationships within the family. And that they might know how to conquer the anguish of this moment together in the family. We pray for peace in families today during this crisis, and for creativity,” he said.
The pope also mentioned that the outlet for families is communicating and building loving relationships, and especially the greater need for prayers. A long period of staying at home may lead to an increase of conflicts among family members.
Apart from exploring how to better get along with our families, we must look after each other’s spiritual needs.
May is the month of the Rosary. The power of this prayer can strengthen minds and hearts amid the epidemic and help us to manifest the virtue charity by helping people.
May the Lord care for the physical, mental and spiritual needs of each family so each can become a powerhouse of prayer as society overcomes the epidemic and revitalises. SE