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Lockdown: Here and There

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Maureen Crowley

Any parent working from home right now knows the difficulties of balancing "office hours" with "school time" for their children. While older students can guide themselves through lessons and assignments, younger learners need more oversight. Equity must be achieved between webinars and virtual meetings that pay the bills and classroom check-ins and daily lessons that keep students up to date with their schoolwork.

What a blessing the technology is that allows all these different interfaces to happen on a mostly smooth plane!

Some of our neighbors and friends are not as lucky -- their jobs have been suspended or eliminated. Many people find themselves without a salary. They may be asking for help from local food pantries for the first time in their lives.

As the pandemic spreads to the missions, these stories are playing out there as well, where The Pontifical Mission Societies is their main safety net.

Regular readers of this column will know that, at the direction of Pope Francis, The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) has established an Emergency Fund to help people in the missions deal with the effects of the pandemic. While we are still in the early stages of accepting donations (any amount will help!), disbursements to mission locations are already being made.

In Liberia, most rural students have no internet access, much less a computer. The risk of falling behind in their education is real to all students, but girls pay a higher price. Often enough, when a girl starts to miss school, her family sees no need to have her return, thinking she'll "just" get married and have children anyway. Why delay it?

Education is the main weapon in the fight against child brides and early motherhood. Thanks to donations from our COVID19 Emergency Fund, classes are being broadcast by radio to remote parts of the country and all children can keep up with their classes.

Catholic communities in Pakistan are a tiny minority and often the poorest; most live below the poverty line and are food-insecure in regular times. Since food is their most fundamental need, especially for their children, that's what the Emergency Fund has delivered.

In Morocco, the Sisters of The Poor Clare Monastery in Casablanca used to support themselves by making and selling altar bread for local parishes. With Masses suspended, the need for their work has dried up leaving the Sisters with no income. The Emergency Fund has stepped in to support them.

Education, feeding the poor, giving a foothold to those who have lost theirs -- all this and more is the work of the missions.

May we continue until all can help themselves.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.

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