“Blessed” to be back at church

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St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney can accommodate up to 600 people under the current pandemic restrictions in NSW. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Many Catholics returned to Mass across NSW last weekend for the first time in more than three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further easing of restrictions in the state from 1 July allowed churches to open their doors to up to 100 people under the 4 square metre rule.

Hundreds of worshippers gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral while observing social distancing and the necessary hygiene precautions as reiterated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in his latest pastoral letter related to the pandemic issued last week.

St Mary’s parishioner Ignatius Corboy said it was good to be back to Mass on Sundays. Screenshot and below: Patrick J Lee

“It is with great joy, as we return to liturgical ‘Ordinary Time’, that our lives are also slowly reverting to their more ‘ordinary’ state”, the archbishop wrote. “These past few months we have felt like the Jews in the Babylonian exile, unable to visit the Temple in Zion.”

As parishes continue to transition out of the March and April lockdown, some opted to continue live-streaming Masses for those unable to attend due to health or space concerns.

Others announced they would discontinue live-streaming in favour of celebrating extra Masses, or because the church can easily accommodate greater numbers under COVID-safe rules.

Dean of St Mary’s Father Don Richardson said he noticed that people were diligent about using hand sanitiser and keeping proper distances between each other.

“I think there was a high awareness among those who came to Mass that the virus is still around and there is a need to be very responsible when gathering at church, for the sake of the whole community,” he said.

“Some spoke of friends or relatives who did not feel ready to come to Mass yet because of their age or health, and who still need our pastoral outreach and support.

“That is an important point: I think we are still a long way from our previous routine and in some ways that’s good, because it pushes us, both clergy and laity, to be more attentive, creative and engaged as a Catholic family and as a leaven in society.”

Berta Silva travelled from her parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fairfield to attend Sunday’s choral sung Mass at the cathedral.

Berta Silva said nothing could keep her from returning to Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary in Fairfield or occasionally St Mary’s Cathedral after months of maintaining social isolation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she was “very happy and grateful to God” for the opportunity to make the visit. “I feel very blessed this morning, everything worked out for me, I just decided to come and I was able to get in,” she said.

“I’m very happy to be a Catholic Christian, nothing could make me leave my Church. Our Church is persecuted in so many ways but God loves us and we love him.”

St Mary’s Cathedral parishioner Ignatius Corboy said it was “terrific” to be back for the Mass.

“It’s like resurrecting out of the tomb, or close to it anyway,” he said. “It’s beautiful to be back.”

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