Our being Religious consecrated to hospitality

Interview of the USG with brother Jesús Etayo, Superior general


In the situation we are experiencing because of the COVID, together with Mr. Riccardo Benotti, head of service of SIR (Religious Information Service)which is the informationmedium of the CEI(Italian Episcopal Conference), weasked some questions to the mostexposed congregationsinvolved in health. 

Today, here are the answers of Brother Jesús Etayo: 


1. How has changed theorder's activity incaring for thesick?


Even  more than is usually the case,  the  Fatebenefratelli (Hospitaller Order  ofthe Brothers of Saint John of God) are at the forefront to support the Italian National Health System inresponding to the health needs of the Italian population and torespond to health needs elsewhere in the world. Since the beginning of the emergency,all our facilities have activelyworked to reorganize the wards and increase the bedsavailable to COVID-19patients, as well as to protect and safeguard all our other guests from the riskofcontagion. All this without preconditions and with a spirit of solidarityandhospitality, thinking first of our patients. It is notonlythe hospitals in the front line(such as our Holy Family of Erba and St. Peter's in Rome, who assisted a good number of Covid-19 patients), but also the residential and rehabilitation facilities (inLombardy alonewe host over 1,000 psychiatric patients). 


Having to make a virtue out of necessity, the Order in Italy and throughout the worldhasreacted to thissituation by developing much needed organizational skills andpractices:


   Efforts to provide all our staff, patients and guests with the necessary Personal Protective Equipmentin a context of limited availability on the market.

   In order to better coordinate the initiatives adopted in the different structures, a Provincial Crisis Unit hasbeen established in each Religious Province andsometimes in each Centre, which gathers almost daily during the emergency in virtualmode, i.e.videoconferences.

   Adaptationof virtual meetings as the normative practice, in order to limit travel

and contacts between our personnel.

   Procedures for responding to epidemic emergencies have been developed andwill remain a heritage ofknowledge of the Provinces.

   We have had to learn to be a "mendicant" Order again, developing fundraising

skills to support the increasedcosts that this emergency hasbrought withit.

   For years the Order has structured a chaplaincy ("Spiritual and Religious Needs

Services")for guests and collaborators ineach center.


In these months of pandemic, this service, composedof lay ministers, priests, deacons, and religious, in linewithwhat the C.E.I. has suggested, has tried to be close to the sick witha constant presence,where possible, throughthe sacraments and spiritual andpsychological supporttowards the co-workers. 


2. How manyCOVID-19 patients have passed through your facilities? 


In Italy, to date, we havehosted 440 COVID-19positive patients in various capacities.

In Spain, there have been around 1500 COVID-19 positive patients. A significant but uncertain  number  in  other  European nations such  as  Germany, France,Austria, Portugal, Hungary, et al.

On other continents -the Americas,Asia, and Africa - there have been few cases so far,that our order hasdealt with.



3. Were any of your members infectedfromtreating the sick?  

Among the religiousinItaly we had onlyonecase of positivity, in an elderly friar who had to be hospitalized, as wellas some religious women who collaborate withus in the service of the sick. Everyone isin recovery.


Globally, so far, we have had 45 confirmed cases among confreres. The majority have recoveredorare in recovery, but unfortunately five elderly brethren have died,four in Spainand one in France. 


Additionally,about 500 collaborators and colleagues have been infected. Two have died,onein Italy and anotherin Colombia. The rest are recoveredorin recovery.



4. What attention have you shown to the medicaland nursing staff?  

We have tried in every way to makepresent to our personnelthe closeness of thereligious family, supporting each where possible in their daily needs. In this historicalmoment, some of our employees have been waiting for the renewal of their national employment contracts formany years. Someprovinces, particularly in Italy, are preparing a series of proposals aimed at propping up institutional confidence and social trust, as wellas the income for theirfamilies, initiatives that will be presented to theunions in the comingweeks. We have made available, through our Provincial PastoralCentre, a service to welcometheir requests, their needs, to help them overcome somedifficult moments in assistance. 


In other parts of the world with more needs, we have provided to members of our family (staff and volunteers) food aid, or any other basic type of aid necessary to support a family.



5. What it means to be a religious person dedicated to the care of people'shealth and to befacedwith to such a pandemic? 


This pandemic has shaken our religious life very much. We have spent considerable time reflecting on the purpose ofourpresence today alongside thesick and our staff. What  has emerged  even more strongly  is our  identity as religious  consecrated  to hospitality. Not all have had the opportunity to serve or be present to the sick, due toageor illness, but in all there has been a strong attention to what is happening in the facilities  we manage,  providing prayer, presence,  andideas  for coping with  thepandemic.

Some of us participated personally in the organization of this emergency and other brothers with direct services to people. In particular, I would liketo highlight the young community of the novitiate that has continued and continues toprovide service to themarginalized, homeless andimmigrants in one of our centersin Brescia.


It is clear to all of us that this epidemic has opened our eyes to the world of healthcare, whichmust see usalways attentive to theneeds of all timesandthe new needsthat every health crisis brings to light even more. We can say that we have seen at work whatour founder St. John of God has transmittedto us and that our constitutions remind us every day: The vow of Hospitality that we profess commits usto stand bythe sick even in danger of death.


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