Throughout the pandemic, the Basilian Fathers of the San Basilio Parish in Medellín, Colombia have continued to nourish the bodies and souls of those they serve; and the need is great. The parish is located in the Olaya Herrera neighborhood of the city of Medellín, and its population is composed mostly of Afro-descendants, displaced people or victims of the internal armed conflict in Colombia. Women and children make up the majority of the population since upon receiving the news of the death of their husbands, they had to emigrate from their fields to the city of Medellín, in precarious housing and health conditions.
The parish has become an oasis in the community. The Basilians, with much effort and dedication, have established different ministries to share life and faith, including the Medical and Dental Center; the San Basilio Clinical Laboratory; the Basilnet Internet room for children and young people; the Teresita Ramírez Community Dining Room; with the presence of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus; the Clothing Room in agreement with SENA, the National Training Service; and the San Basilio Young Art Workshop; in addition to all the parish’s catechetical processes and pastoral services.
Funding for these programs comes from the Congregation of St. Basil and donations from the Association of Former Basilians and those made through the St. Joseph Mission Centre, and proceeds from the sale of
Saint Basil Coffee.
“San Basillo provides job skill training and a wide range of humanitarian assistance – it is the hand that reaches out and lifts up those most in need, especially in this time of COVID,” said John Howard, president of Saint Basil Coffee and Basilian Lay Associate.
Despite all the good they have sought to do with through planning and dedication, these ministries have been affected by the global pandemic. Just like the doors of the church building, the projects had to close in March. However, the local Basilian community did not close themselves off from serving others. One of the largest problems that arose during the pandemic was hunger. Faced with this, the Basilians set about satisfying the physical and spiritual hunger of their neighbors.
Every other day, the Basilians and dedicated volunteers cook and serve food to feed the local community, free of charge. The food is prepared following the health and safety measures required by the Colombian Ministry of Health. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the parish has served over 73,000 lunches with help from the SACIAR Foundation Food Bank, neighbouring parishes, and local merchants who support this work.
As restrictions loosened, the Basilians have been able to reopen some of the projects including the San Basilio Young Art Workshop, the Clothing Workshop, and the Basilnet Internet Room which operates at a reduced capacity to maintain social distancing. As an essential service, the Medical Center had remained open throughout the lockdown. Mass is once again being celebrated in person: parishioners need to reserve a spot in advance and have their temperature taken upon entry.
Through the merciful work of the Almighty God and his Blessed Mother who intercedes day by day, the Basilian community is strengthened through the word so that only spiritual hunger remains persistent in the lives of all those who share in its ministry.