María del Carmen Serrano. Calls from the divine and the human

The confinements due to the pandemic have increased the loneliness of so many elderly and sick people who cannot leave their homes. If they cannot be physically accompanied, why not by telephone?

Arsenio Fernández de Mesa-May 17, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
Maria del Carmen Serrano

Confinement has caused many people who find it physically difficult to leave their homes, especially the elderly and infirm, to feel profoundly lonely. They no longer receive visits from their loved ones or, at best, with all kinds of distances and precautions. If they do visit, it is for a short time. And the few conversations they have are about the pandemic situation, hospitalizations, restrictions or vaccinations. This creates an atmosphere of pessimism and discouragement - how much we need companionship and an optimistic outlook in these times! Well, that is what the parish of María Madre del Amor Hermoso, in Villaverde Bajo, has decided to do: to calm the loneliness and the absence of encouraging news in so many people. Sister María del Carmen Serrano Mayo, a religious of the Incarnate Word, is assigned to the house that her Congregation has in this area of Madrid and participates actively in the parish community. That is where the initiative came from.

Telephone support

They have creatively thought of the possibility of providing the sick and elderly with a word of encouragement and consolation, and have designed a pastoral telephone accompaniment program. This is a work that does not appear in official statistics and does not bear striking fruit, but it is especially humane in this situation of isolation caused by the virus. "We have made a group of eleven volunteers who frequently contact these people to get to know them, take an interest in their situation and offer help." explains this nun. At the beginning, there are certain reservations, because almost everyone finds it shocking. "chatting on the phone with people you don't even know". Experience shows that soon after, precious friendships are forged. The deep motive of this initiative is to make Christ's charity present in these souls: "Christians must bring to all, especially to those who suffer, the warmth and closeness of a God who loves them, consoles them and cares for them".  

A precious task

Sister Maria del Carmen is in charge of coordinating the volunteers and giving impetus to this precious task. She recognizes that the elderly and sick "They live practically alone and isolated, because their relatives do not visit them for fear of infecting them, but they also do not let them go out on the street to avoid any danger". She confesses, from the experience she is having with them, that "They need to know that they are part of this life that is in continuous movement, that they are not parasites, that they are useful, that they can bring wealth to this society". These people need to be heard but also to receive encouraging words that encourage them to keep fighting: "they have worked hard to build the society we enjoy and we cannot abandon them as if they were no longer useful."

Lola, one of the volunteers, tells us that once a week she calls Isabel, 86 years old, and spends some time chatting with her about the divine and the human. The first few days were a time to get to know each other. "Now we even talk about recipes and comment on how delicious the dishes turned out." she confesses amused. Isabel has shared her feelings, fears and joys with her. "I try to accompany her with affection, always listen to her and, when I can, I lend her a hand or give her encouragement," says Lola. 

Friendships that last

This volunteer acknowledges that the confinement is being very hard emotionally for the elderly and sick: "Isabel, although she receives attention from her children, lacks the usual contact and closeness with so many people who encourage her life.". These phone calls from Lola have changed her daily life, which has become monotonous and routine: "One feels very accompanied, as if that friend were with you at home: I consider it an undeserved gift from God". Sister Maria del Carmen Serrano Mayo happily comments on the fruits of this pastoral work: "Both the volunteers and the elderly and sick people with whom they have this contact are looking forward to getting to know each other physically: they will undoubtedly be friendships that will last over time".

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